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Ko Hopes to Duplicate Success in Last Year's Canadian Women's Open
Teenage amateur Lydia Ko shocked the golf world last summer by winning the Canadian Women's Open in surprisingly easy fashion. Then a mere 15 years old, Ko romped to a three-stroke victory at historic Vancouver Golf Club following rounds of 68, 68, 72 and 67.
The player she beat? None other than fellow South Korean native Inbee Park, who won the first three majors among her six titles this season to cement her No. 1 position in the Rolex World Ranking.
Ko's precocious performance last year - which made her the youngest player ever to win on the LPGA Tour - in British Columbia really wasn't all that surprising. After all, in January 2012 the current New Zealand resident became - at the time 14 - the youngest player ever to win a professional tour event by taking the Bing Lee/Samsung Women's NSW Open in her home country.
She also won several other prestigious titles in 2012, including the Australian Women's Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur, the latter of which she, at the time, considered the biggest victory of her meteoric - and still rising - career.
Since her victory in Vancouver - where she forfeited the $300,000 winner's share to Park because of her amateur status, which she still retains, Ko won the Ladies European Tour's ISPS Handa New Zealand Open this February, edging American Amelia Lewis by a stroke.
Ko is looking forward to defending her title in the Canadian Women's Open, which begins Thursday at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton, Alberta.
On Tuesday, Ko met with reporters at Royal Mayfair and talked about her performance last year at Vancouver Golf Club, subsequent discussions with Park, and future plans to turn pro. Here's what Ko had to say.
MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome in our defending champion this week, Lydia Ko. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us. Can you believe it's almost been a full year since you made history becoming the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour?
LYDIA KO: No, not really. Time flies, and lots of things have happened since then. I've been really enjoying it the last year.
MODERATOR: Now, this is your 10th LPGA Tour event this season; you're almost like a regular. How much has this entire year, you played in all four majors this year, been playing on big stages in events like this, how much more comfortable do you feel coming out to events and trying to contend every week?
LYDIA KO: You know, I've been getting a whole new experience, because courses change. I've been getting a feel for all these different types of golf courses in different countries and situations. I've been really enjoying it. It doesn't feel like I've played 10 already, but yeah, it's been really cool to have that opportunity to play this many.
MODERATOR: Time flies when you're having fun, I guess.
LYDIA KO: Yes.
MODERATOR: And you said you got to do a little sightseeing at the Women's British Open. Talk about just taking advantage of traveling the world. You get to do something that not many teenagers get to do and things that you've been looking forward to and you're trying to take advantage of that situation.
LYDIA KO: Yeah, it's been pretty special. I would never have imagined myself to have flown to Scotland and then go and do some sightseeing, going to London, watching some theater stuff. Yeah, it's definitely a whole different life as a teenager. Yeah, it's been really cool to get this opportunity to actually be a tourist rather than a full time golfer.
MODERATOR: A new course this year. Last year you won in Vancouver. You've had a couple practice rounds. What are you taking away from the course from what you've seen the past couple days?
LYDIA KO: You know, it's par 70 here, and I think the distance is like 6,400, so yeah, it's definitely different to last year. The course setup is a bit different. But I played well last year, so I know hopefully I'll be able to do that again this year. But I've just got to try my best. The course looks like it's in really good form. Yeah, I think it'll be really good.
MODERATOR: I saw someone tweet your putting. I don't know if you played a practice round or were on the putting green with Inbee. Has she been giving you any pointers or have you gotten to practice together at all?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I saw her on Sunday. I was putting and then she came along and did some putting, as well. No, I didn't ask her any questions, but I stopped and then looked at how the world No.1 putts. Yeah, I kind of looked at her stroke and saw what kind of the differences were with mine.
Q. I wanted to ask you as an amateur it means you won't be able to collect the prize money if you win. How hard is that for you knowing it's like a $300,000 check?
LYDIA KO: You know, I've played the other tournaments and it's not like I've been getting any then. No, it's not really hard. I know the amateurs aren't going to get any money anyway. Yeah, I don't really think about it. It's not like I count how much I'm earning each week.
Q. Does that impede you, not being able to cash in on that as far as travel, all expenses like that?
LYDIA KO: No, I don't really think about money, I just hit the ball. My parents are the ones that are thinking about money and expenses.
Q. What's the best piece of advice you've received from anybody regarding kind of dealing with early success at such a young age?
LYDIA KO: You know, everybody - well, I said I don't want to take it very fast and I've got lots of time, and people have been agreeing with that. So I think that's been really supportive in that way, not saying all these advices but kind of agreeing with the option we took.
Q. Last year you mentioned that the U.S. Amateur was still a bigger win even after you won this tournament. Twelve months later have you changed your mind at all considering who you beat last year in Vancouver?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I think it's on the same level now that I've thought about it. Yeah, I mean, I probably said that about the U.S. Am because I really, really wanted to win it, and the Canadian Open I didn't know that I'd ever win it, and I kind of got it done. Yeah, I think because it was a huge surprise, it kind of didn't sink in yet at that moment, but now when I look back at it, it was a really big week in my life.
Q. For the umpteenth time, have your plans changed at all? Last year you said you had designs on going to a U.S. college, maybe Stanford. What are your plans now a year later?
LYDIA KO: I was wondering why that question wasn't coming up (laughing). Yeah, I am thinking of college, but I'm not thinking of playing college golf. That's a different route I'm taking. And still, like I can't talk to the college coaches, so it's quite a hard thing to make a decision right now. Pro, we're thinking about when it's the right time to turn pro. We're thinking.
MODERATOR: It was just a huge week in women's golf. The Solheim Cup just finished. Did you follow it at all?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I watched on the first day. I was doing some putting out here and then I went into the small nine hole clubhouse, and yeah, I watched everybody play. People were sinking putts from everywhere and hitting it really close. Yeah, it's quite an inspirational week, even though I'm not an American or a European. It was really cool to watch.
Q. Now, Charley Hull, another teenager in the field this week, just played in the Solheim Cup. How does it feel to see another girl around your age doing really well on the international stage?
LYDIA KO: You know, she obviously proved herself out there last week, and she's obviously a really great player. Yeah, it kind of makes me feel better seeing that I'm not the youngest one, I'm not the young one, so yeah, that feels good.
MODERATOR: Have a great week. Good luck. Hopefully we'll see you soon.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.