Steve Williams, who went ballistic after Tiger Woods fired him, believes teen sensation Lydia Ko’s decision to ax long-time coach Guy Wilson is "unethical," "baffling," and could be calamitous to her burgeoning professional career.
"I think it’s pretty unethical, myself, what occurred," Williams, who was on Woods’ bag for 13 of his 14 major championships and a few high-profile coaching changes before getting the sack and teaming up with reigning Masters champ Adam Scott, told Radio New Zealand on Monday.
Williams, a native New Zealander who acknowledged that golf was "a revolving door," reacted with anger and prognostications of dire consequences for his Kiwi compatriot for dumping his long-time mate Wilson in favor of David Leadbetter Academy instructor Sean Hogan. The 16-year-old who had worked with Wilson since she was 5 confirmed Monday that she was moving on, both from Wilson and New Zealand, where she has lived since her parents moved her there from South Korea when she was 6.
"I don’t think [Wilson] had any inkling [he would be let go]," said Williams, who urged Ko to go pro months before she did so in October. "I guess that’s why it’s come as such a shock, and it’s probably not the ideal time of the year, either, at Christmas time."
Indeed, it’s been quite a busy holiday season for Ko, who won her first tournament as a professional and enlisted with Tiger’s former management firm IMG earlier this month, cadged her first commercial endorsement with ANZ Bank, and is making plans to ink a hefty deal with Callaway.
In firing Wilson, Ko ended a relationship with a man she called a coach and a friend, and who was someone who helped her become the fourth-ranked golfer in the world. She said that Hogan will be her new guru because his Florida locale was more convenient for her new jet-setting lifestyle.
''It doesn't really work, [Wilson] being here [New Zealand] and him coming on the weeks that I'm not playing a tournament," Ko told Television New Zealand on Monday. "That means I'd only see him like 10 times a year and to me that kind of situation didn't work out so that's why I thought it might be better to have a coach based somewhere in the States."
Wilson publicly expressed disappointment with the new arrangement.
"We’ve spent a lot of time together over the past decade and during that time I’ve become very close to Lydia and her family. While I`m incredibly disappointed that our 11-year partnership is over, I respect Lydia and her team`s decision," Wilson said in a statement.
"When I first met her the golf clubs were taller than she was, and she didn’t know the first thing about a driver or a putter but now she has one of the most envied swings in the women`s golf world."
Wilson was apparently far more emotional in private about the situation that Williams called stunning.
"Obviously he’s very disappointed," Williams said. "You’ve introduced someone to the game and taken her to the best amateur in the world, and then to one of the leading professionals in the world in a very short time ... He’s obviously tremendously upset what’s happened."
Williams reported that his friend was "shell-shocked" and reeling from a "real blow" that would cost him monetarily as well as psychically.
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"He spends all his own time and he’s had no compensation for his time and effort that he’s put in," Williams said. "You could understand it if the player was having poor results or there was a breakdown in the relations, or something. But from where I can gather talking to Guy, who I know personally, he’s shell-shocked. He doesn’t feel that he’s in a situation where he should be dropped."
Ko ought to give Wilson an opportunity in the big leagues, Williams lobbied.
"She’s a rising star, and you’ve had someone with you form day one," he said. "I think professionally you give that person a chance to carry on into your professional career. If it didn’t work out — but to drop somebody ... I think Guy deserves to have that chance to coach her starting out on the tour in 2014."
Williams, who crowed about how Scott’s 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational win, with the native New Zealander on his bag, was "the greatest week of my life," and later taunted Woods with a racist insult, was clearly unhappy with however his last hours played out with the 14-time major champion. In that case and in Ko’s, the veteran looper was displeased with what he considered a lack of loyalty.
Williams also claimed that Ko had dumped her caddie of the last few weeks, which must have been particularly galling for Tiger’s ex, and offered the new tour pro some unsolicited advice that sounded a lot like the dire warnings several pundits had for Rory McIlroy when he ditched Titleist for Nike.
"The most important thing for Lydia is to keep the team around her that’s got her to where she has, but that’s not the case obviously," he said. "It might be detrimental to her career to have chosen the path that she’s gone on.
"I also understand that the caddie that's worked for her for the last six to eight weeks has also been dropped," Williams added. "It’s quite a scary situation and ideally I wouldn’t have thought the right way to start your professional career but they obviously have their own opinion ... to what they think they can achieve by changing coaches and changing caddies."
Ko told TVNZ she put her game in the hands of Hogan and was sorry to leave the coach whose guidance helped her develop as the world’s top amateur for three straight years and win five professional titles.
"It's obviously sad to stop with Guy, because he's been a great coach and a great friend as well," she said.
"But it's just important to know that we still are good friends, which is quite good because sometimes it might not end well in both ways. I'm just lucky that we can still be friends."
Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when, at 15, she won the 2012 Women’s Canadian Open. She successfully defended her title in 2013, petitioned commissioner Michael Whan to join the tour, turned pro, and will become a full LPGA member next year.
Shortly after signing with IMG, Ko announced her first endorsement deal, and, after meeting her idol, Phil Mickelson, on a recent sojourn to a Callaway fitting center, will reportedly get paid to play Lefty’s gear of choice.
A Callaway spokesperson told SBNation that the company had no comment on speculation, that included stuff.co.nz terming Ko's new contract a "highly lucrative deal."