Lydia Ko, who turns 18 on April 24, has had quite the start to her LPGA career. Sure, there have been other young, female stars to storm onto the scene as well – Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson are easy choices – but Ko’s accomplishments haven’t been matched by anyone.
She became the number one female golfer in the world as a teenager and was the youngest male or female to be named number one since some guy named Tiger Woods—and Ko did it nearly four years sooner.
The last female golfer to garner as much attention as Ko has at a young age was Wie, but Wie never won once in her 40 LPGA events before turning 18 despite netting 13 top-10s. Ko has won six times. She’s also picked up 28 top-10s in 49 events. Oh, and she has yet to miss a cut.
So while Wie and others cashed in off the course as teenagers (Wie signed lucrative deals with Nike and Sony at 15), no golfer has had as much on-course success since Tiger dominated as a youngster. How does Ko stack up against Tiger when comparing what they did before turning 18? Things have changed quite a bit since then, and the women’s game is different than the men’s, but still, numbers prove Ko is in a league or her own.
And, like Tiger showed us, Ko should have a lot to look forward to.
Tiger Woods vs. Lydia Ko (The teenage years)
TIGER — Turned 18: Dec. 30, 1993
KO — Turned 18: April 24, 2015
TIGER — First PGA Tour event: Age 16, Nissan Los Angeles Open (MC)
KO — First LPGA Tour event: Age 15, ISPS Handa Australian Open (T19)
TIGER — PGA Tour events before 18: 4, missed cut in all
KO — LPGA Tour events before 18: 49, 28 Top-10s, 6 wins*, 0 missed cuts (*2 wins as an amateur)
TIGER — Money earned on Tour before 18: $0
KO — Money earned on Tour before 18: $2,697,843
TIGER — Money earned at first event as a pro: $2,544 for T60 at Greater Milwaukee Open on Sept. 1, 1996 (after he turned 18)
KO — Money earned as first event as a pro: $31,543 for T7 at Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic on Jan. 23, 2014
TIGER — Money earned through endorsements before 18: $0 (Woods didn’t sign with Nike until 1996.)
KO — Money earned through endorsements before 18: More than $1 million (Ko signed a deal with Callaway rumored to be worth more than $1 million a year shortly after turning pro, and she also currently has deals with ANZ, Rolex, 1Above and iHeat).
TIGER — Top teenage feats (before turning 18): Won Optimist International Junior World Championships six times; Youngest to win U.S. Junior Amateur Championship (15) and only golfer to win it more than once (also won at 16 and 17); Dial Award winner, given to top high school male athlete in the nation in 1993.
KO — Top teenage feats (before turning 18): First amateur in LPGA history to win twice and fifth amateur winner since 1967; Has yet to miss an LPGA cut; Youngest winner in LPGA history (CN Canadian Women’s Open, 15 years, 4 months, 2 days/since been broken); Won inaugural Race to the CME Globe (and $1 million bonus); Became youngest Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year; Posted 29 straight rounds under par, tying Anika Sorenstam; Became youngest female or male to ever reach No. 1 in the world, breaking Tiger’s record by nearly four years.