Teen star Ko files petition with LPGA to turn pro
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (AP) — Amateur sensation Lydia Ko is turning pro and has asked the U.S. LPGA Tour to waive its age limit.
The 16-year-old from New Zealand already is a two-time winner on the tour — both wins at the Canadian Women’s Open — and last year became the youngest winner in tour history. She also contended at the Evian Championship last month in the year’s fifth and final major championship.
The tour confirmed that it received a petition from Ko asking that it waive its minimum age requirement of 18.
Tour commissioner Mike Whan was traveling from Asia on Thursday and not immediately available to comment. Whan, who two years ago granted such a petition to American golfer Lexi Thompson, has sole discretion whether Ko can join the tour early. The tour said Whan would be in contact with Ko and her family.
Ko’s mother, Tina Hyon, told Golf Channel’s website on Wednesday in an email that her daughter would play as a pro in the LPGA Titleholders in Naples, Florida, in November. She also might play in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
Born in South Korea, Ko moved to New Zealand when she was 6 and began taking lessons at Pupuke Golf Club in Auckland. This week she received the McCormack Medal as the top-ranked female amateur for the third straight year. She’s world ranked No. 5.
Ko would have earned nearly $1 million this year if she had been a pro.
Michelle Wie was 15 when she turned pro, though she played a limited schedule and did not ask for tour membership.
Thompson was 16 when she won on the tour in 2011. Whan granted her petition to join before turning 18, though it did not take effect until the 2012 season and Thompson played her first round as a member the day before she turned 17.