Lydia Ko and Callaway Golf made it official Monday: the 16-year-old golf phenom will start her full first season as a member of the LPGA Tour with a bagful of gear from the supplier that Phil Mickelson credited with helping him win his first British Open.
"We're very excited to announce the final addition of the year to #TeamCallaway, former World #1 Amateur and youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour, Lydia Ko," Callaway, which did not disclose details of the pact, wrote on its Facebook page.
The South Korean native, whose parents moved to New Zealand as a youngster to further their daughter's blossoming links career, will play all Callaway and Odyssey equipment. That includes the company’s new X2 Hot Pro driver, with which the two-time LPGA Tour victor won her first tournament as a professional, the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, an official event so-sanctioned by the Taiwan LPGA and Korea Ladies Professional Golf Tour.
Ko is the most recent of the new wave of players to enlist with Callaway, which, despite its long-term deal with Mickelson, has committed to a youth movement of late. Prior to Ko’s signing, the firm inked a gaggle of golfers, including Harris English, Matteo Mannasero, and Yani Tseng, to new contracts.
The signing of the social media-savvy teen was not exactly a surprise. The head of her new coaching team, David Leadbetter, said on New Zealand radio earlier this month that his protege would join the Carlsbad crew.
It’s been a busy few months for Ko, who turned professional shortly before the LPGA Tour waived the requirement that members be 18 and let her join. She announced via YouTube in October that she was foregoing her amateur status; joined Tiger Woods’ former management firm, IMG last month; and, in a move that drew the wrath of Tiger’s ex-caddie, Steve Williams, fired her long-time swing coach, Guy Wilson, soon thereafter.
"It’s going to be a learning curve," Ko, who will play some 25 events in 2014, told senior VP of marketing Harry Arnett in a recent "Callaway Talks" video about her upcoming rookie campaign on tour. You can’t please everybody, that’s what I’ve learned in the last couple of months."
About her move to new clubs, Ko, the youngest winner of an LPGA contest, said she was transitioning nicely to the unfamiliar sticks.
"It’s been different. I haven’t had a Callaway club in my bag until the CME [Group Championship, the tour’s season-ending event in November] and I used a driver and it was actually the most comfortable heads I’ve ever played with," she said. "It’s been working well. I won in Taiwan with the [X2 Hot Pro] driver and an Odyssey putter, so we kind of started on a good pathway, and then I’ve worked my way up with the woods and irons and wedges ... Everything is working good and it’s comfortable in my hands."
Ko’s signing followed quickly after Tseng became a Callaway tour staffer. The five-time major champion and former world No. 1 ended her four-year relationship with Adams Golf to join Callaway.