Lydia Ko, the world’s top-ranked woman amateur golfer, said she’s turned professional and plans to play for cash for the first time at next month’s season-ending LPGA Tour event in Florida.
Ko, a 16-year-old New Zealander who became the youngest winner of an LPGA title last year, made the announcement today via a YouTube video posted on her Twitter account in which she features in a skit with All Blacks rugby player Israel Dagg.
“She was reluctant to hold a traditional press conference,” New Zealand Golf Chief Executive Officer Dean Murphy said in a statement. “She has also been very busy studying for exams and wanted to make this announcement in a different way.”
As an amateur, the South Korean-born Ko won four professional titles, including back-to-back victories at the LPGA’s Canadian Women’s Open, the first of which made her the youngest winner of an LPGA event. She was 15 when she won that first title. Her ineligibility to accept prize money because of her amateur status kept her from earning about $660,000 in winnings from those tournaments.
Ko’s runner-up finish at last month’s Evian Championship, the fifth women’s golf major of the year, would have earned the Auckland high school student another $298,000 had she been pro.
During the YouTube clip, Dagg asks Ko if she’s ready to shed her amateur status as they finish off a round of golf.
“Well if you can beat me, you can definitely handle the pressure of going pro. It must be time now?” says Dagg, a Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2011.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Ko, the No. 4 player in the Women’s World Golf Rankings, replies. “Right now, right this second.”