Lydia Ko, New Zealand’s teenage golf sensation, has spent her last two years dominating the LPGA Tour. She’s won 10 titles, including the 2015 Evian Championship, which made her the youngest woman to win a major. When she became the top-ranked female in the world in February 2015, she made history as the youngest golfer, male or female, to be No. 1 in professional golf. She hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down anytime soon, but GOLF.com caught up with her at the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla.
What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
I think definitely the Olympics. Ever since they announced that golf would be returning to the Olympics, I thought, ‘Hey, I wanna get myself on the team.’ It has always been my dream. I saw on other sports sites they were counting down to the second when we’ll start playing, so it’s really exciting. I think it’ll be just great. As an athlete, to say that you’re an Olympian, and if you end up getting a medal, that’s great, but I think it would be a very special moment.
If you had to choose between winning a gold medal or winning a major which would you choose?
I think the gold medal in the Olympics. It’s just always been my dream and for that time to come so soon and for you to represent your country on the world stage where the world’s best golfers and best athletes are there, in one position, I think that would be a proud moment. Especially with the Olympics where you’re playing for your team and your country, it’s kind of a whole proud feeling where it’s not me, it’s my team, it’s the country and everyone is sharing that special moment.
As a young woman who has found a lot of success on the LPGA Tour, how do you help grow the game and give it the attention it deserves?
When a junior says, “Hey, I want to be like you in the future,” that’s really cool to hear. I think that almost inspires me to get better. I think the really great thing about our tour is we get to interact with a lot of our fans. We’ve also had so many great role models like the founders, people like Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa that have grown the tour and made it what it is today. So if I or some of the other players can put a little bit more of an impact where it can be even better for the next generation, I think it’s a job well done.
The LPGA has equivalents to the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. Is it time for a Women’s Masters?
I think that would be pretty cool. I think the closest to the Masters is the ANA Inspiration where there’s something special where the winner leaps into the pond, but I think it would be awesome to have a Women’s Masters. I think there’s so much talent out here so there’s no reason why [not]. Especially because we dream of maybe getting to play at Augusta. If that day comes, even if I’m not the player to play it, I think it’d be really special and I think it would grow our tour.
You might be the World No. 1, but you’re still a teenager. I hear you’re getting your driver’s license.
Yeah, I got my learner’s permit so I can drive, but I have to have an adult and drive within the [specific] times, but it’s tough! You try and drive a car and everybody said it was the same as driving a cart, but it’s a lot harder, especially when you’re going a lot faster. But it’s good to get off the course and get to do things, learn things and just be an 18-year-old. I think it’s good to have that balance of the two.
If there’s one thing you can take away from your time on the LPGA Tour so far, what would it be?
It’s hard to choose one. Can I say two? [Laughs] I think that one is the whole tour and the girls that are out here. Every moment is so special, and especially two years ago when I was a rookie, everybody was so welcoming. Obviously, they were my role models that I’d always watched on TV. For me to play alongside them and for them to be so welcoming and so nice, I think that’s something I feel very fortunate about. The second thing is probably my team. My agents, my coaches, my trainers, my family. I know that I couldn’t be here without them. They’ve worked as hard as me. I know golf is an individual sport, but there’s a lot of factors that they put in to help us get to the way we are. The tour and my team, I couldn’t change anything and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today without them.