In 2015, when she was just 17 years, nine months and nine days old, Ko also became the youngest male or female player to reach the world rankings in professional golf.
If winning tournaments or setting records creates buzz, it’s not the be-all-and-all-all for Ko, a message reinforced by her coach Sean Foley: “Just because you win another event Yes, you’ll be happy for that day, but it doesn’t make you a better person or a worse person the day after.”
“Sometimes I identify with the way I played that day,” Ko told DailyExpertNews Living Golf’s Shane O’Donoghue. “And sometimes when I don’t play well, I say, ‘Oh man, you’re so stupid’ or things like that.
“And I think it’s very easy to connect your identity to that, but I just have to separate that. And my goal is to hopefully have the career grand slam, I’ve been close in the three majors I haven’t won yet . And that would probably be my end goal.”
In her golf career, Ko has so far won the Evian Championship and the ANA Inspiration. She has also won just a few shots from the other three majors, finishing second at the Women’s PGA Championship in 2016 and third at the US Women’s Open and Women’s British Open.
“And I’m sure I’ll be very, very happy, but I think sometimes results are so overrated and being happy off the golf course, I think that’s the best thing that will make me happy on the track too.”
Quick start is something Ko knows all about.
In addition to her record win at the 2012 New South Wales Women’s Open at the age of 14, she became the youngest winner of a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour event in the same year.
When she was 17, she set an LPGA record for the most money made by a rookie, winning $2,089,033.
In 2015, Ko became the youngest player in the “modern era” (after 1900) of both sexes to win a major championship, winning the Evian Championship as an 18-year-old.
After winning the Mediheal Championship in 2018, her fortune changed.
For the first time in her young career, Ko endured a barren period, competing in 37 events between 2019 and 2020, failing to win one and finishing in the top 10 just eight times.
Ko recalls struggling for form and looking for her “consistency”, adding that she was “absolutely overthinking and trying to over-analyze.”
“I guess I wasn’t that type of person before and when you’re having a hard time, you try to find answers and you try to dig deeper and deeper and deeper,” the 24-year-old said.
“And sometimes it’s good because you can go in and see a little bit from the base, but sometimes you can make it too complicated.
“And in my case, I had done that and working with Sean (Foley), he was able to sort out some of the questions in my head and he’s been just as helpful, mentally and taking things that needlessly into my thoughts were, as well as the technique.”
She admits she wasn’t even really confused during her barren streak, something Ko struggled with psychologically.
But this year Ko experienced a renaissance.
She finished her scoreless run at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii and won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She called the opportunity to represent New Zealand in Japan a “huge honour.”
And earlier in November, she ran to a dominant five-shot win at the Saudi Ladies International.
The win at the event, which boasts one of the richest prizes on the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule – a $1 million prize pool – takes her to fifth in the world rankings and confirms herself as one of the world’s top form players. golf.
Despite early career success, Ko believes the 2021 season will be her “most consistent” ever.
Ko says her consistency this year can be partly explained by the lessons she learned as her form slumped.
“I think there was a time when I tried to hunt to be the person I might have been when I was playing… When I was number 1,” she said.
“But another player told me that you can’t try to be your past, you have to be the best version of yourself in the present. And I think that really touched me.
“It kind of sounds like common sense, but when you actually do it and you struggle, it doesn’t seem like common sense. And when she told me that, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so true.’ And I think it’s for sure made me focus more on the now and not try to be who I was before.”
Already in her eighth year on tour, Ko is no longer among the youth players.
Although she started the sport with the goal of retiring at 30, she is the happiest in her life “on and off the golf course”, something that has prepared her for future success.
“I think just being happy off the golf course translates to on the golf course too,” explains Ko.
“And how I approach playing and how I approach coming to the golf course every day, kind of in the mood that I’m in. And I think at the end of the day golf and here is off work, but you still have to enjoy. And the time when you don’t enjoy it anymore, it’s not worth it.
“So yeah, it’s a grind, but I’m still having a lot of fun and enjoying it and trying to embrace more of that, ‘Hey, sometimes it won’t all be sunny and good days. You just have to stay kind to move on and to do your best.’ And as long as you try your best, that’s about it.”