Golf prodigy Lydia Ko has set what seems a modest ambition for this week’s Australian Ladies Masters days after claiming worldwide attention.
“My goal is just to make the cut,” said 14-year-old Ko on Wednesday.
Public expectations are likely to be higher for the amateur who became the youngest golfer - man or woman - to win a professional tournament when she triumphed at the women’s NSW Open on Sunday.
Bookies agree, listing the whizkid on the fourth line of betting at 17-1 for the 21st Ladies Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast starting on Thursday.
Ko will play in a headline-grabbing group with 16-year-old American star Lexi Thompson and Australian Kristie Smith at the event which is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and boasts a stronger field than last week even though seven-time champion Karrie Webb is missing.
Thompson, the tournament favourite, is already setting Ko a tough pace in the early achievement stakes, having been the youngest US Women’s Open qualifier at 12 and youngest LPGA Tour winner at 16 before also winning on the Ladies European Tour in January.
“I’ll be nervous,” admitted New Zealand schoolgirl Ko.
“I mean Kristie and Lexi, I see what they do.
“They are two big hitters and I am short.
“I’ll try and treat it like any other round but obviously I am playing with two special people.”
While her goal for the week may seem modest, Ko is hoping her recent performances and status as the world No.1 amateur will open some doors in the US this year, starting with the year’s first major championship, next month’s Kraft Nabisco.
“I’m kinda looking forward to getting a few invites to pro tournaments like the Kraft (Nabisco) in March,” she said.
“Even getting a spot in the US Amateur last year was pretty hard ... I had to pre-qualify.
“To get a spot and play in a (major) championship without qualifying this year would be really nice.” Ko revealed how a family trip to Australia when she was five got her started in golf. Her auntie gave her a mini putter and seven iron to take home to Korea.
“I used to play around with them and people would say `Oh, you’re pretty good’ so my mum and dad decided I should start playing golf,” Ko told AAP. A year ago Ko three-putted her last hole to lose the NSW Open by one shot to Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall. Last weekend that understandable frailty had been replaced by a resolve that didn’t give her chasers a sniff with a flawless closing 69.
Her coach and caddie Guy Wilson - who has promised jump in the lake if she wins on Sunday - has seen the transition in his prodigy as a player and person. “I’m jumping on as many websites as I can to try and see what she’s doing and how she’s handling the media and how she is perceived by the media,” said Wilson. “She’s just starting to open up, and joke, and carry on as 14-year-old girl does and should do.”