Teen prodigies are all the rage these days on the professional golf circuits, what with Lexi Thompson, 18, winning her third LPGA Tour event this week, and 14-year-old Guan Tianlang’s star turn at the Masters.
Then there’s Lydia Ko, next up in our season-ending countdown of the most headline-worthy memories from the 2013 golf season...
24. Golf phenom Lydia Ko rewrites history books, turns pro
Lydia Ko was 15 when she romped to a three-shot victory at the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open, trumping Thompson’s feat less than a year after "Lexi" entered the game’s lexicon as the game’s next whiz kid. The Kiwi by way of South Korea fired eye-popping rounds of 68-68-72-67 to defeat Inbee Park, who had yet to ascend to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings but was pretty darn good even so.
Golf’s newest wunderkind was a year older when she repeated her accomplishment and defended her title north of the border in August. She had already forfeited more than $1 million in prize money due to her amateur status, so the world’s fifth-ranked player surprised no one when she announced, via an October YouTube video, that she was turning pro.
After Lexi did the heavy lifting (her petition to the LPGA to waive the age requirement of 18 sparking weeks of will-he-or-won’t-he), it was a no-brainer for commissioner Michael Whan to invite the four-time worldwide winner into the tour ranks.
"It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA Tour champion," Whan said in October after accepting Ko’s membership request.
Ko, who was runner-up in September in her most recent competitive event, the LPGA’s fifth major, the Evian Championship, will make her tour debut at this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla. The kid, by the way, also scored eight top-25 and five top-10 finishes, including her title defense, in 11 LPGA events in 2013, and in 15 LPGA starts has missed nary a cut.