By Roger Schiffman
What is most striking about Lydia Ko's victory Sunday--she's the youngest champion on the LPGA Tour (sorry, Lexi Thompson) and the first amateur to win since JoAnn Carner in 1969--is the way in which she did it. By laughing and smiling, even at her bad shots, and joking with her local caddie, almost 50 years her senior, Ko birdied five of six holes in the final round to head off such major stars as Jiyai Shin, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen.
But it's this same attitude and approach to the game that has produced a string of positive experiences--and victories--in the short career of this obvious child prodigy. Kudos to her New Zealand coach, says Kevin Hinton, who usually writes the Instruction Blog on Mondays. (We gave Kevin the week off.) Ko's young coach is someone you've probably never heard of, Guy Wilson. But you might be hearing a lot about him in the coming weeks, months and years. Hinton notes that it seems like he's done just about everything right in helping Lydia shape her flawless swing, short game and putting stroke, but more importantly her light-hearted approach to practice and play. This is difficult when building a teen phenom, Hinton says. Check out this video from a year ago, before she won the U.S. Women's Amateur and now the CN Canadian Women's Open.
And she seems to have her priorities in order: She's remaining an amateur for the foreseeable future, she says, but suggested that if she could have accepted the $300,000 first-place check, she would have bought a dog and given most of the money to the poor.
There's a lesson here for all of us, and especially anyone responsible for bringing a young player into golf. We need to remind ourselves what's truly important and what this game is all about. So far, Lydia and her coach are on the right path. Check out these video reports to not only see how perfectly on plane Lydia's swing is, and how perfectly paced her putting stroke is, but how perfectly in perspective they've been able to keep the game in her life. Let's hope it continues. Here's one more video, this one from when Lydia was 12.