Lydia Ko's awesome time at Pinehurst

BY Bruce Young | LPGA Tour | 2014 US Women's Open | Preview | 19 Jun 2014

Despite her tender age of 17, New Zealander Lydia Ko begins this week’s US Women’s Open as one of the favourites to take another USGA title having already secured a US Amateur Championship two years ago.

Ko will take on a new caddie this week in the form of Mike Cowan, Jim Furyk’s regular bagman and the man who was on board when Tiger Woods won the first of his 14 major championships at Augusta National some 17 years ago.

The age difference between Ko and Cowan is some 49 years so although Twitter and Facebook will not necessarily be big talking points during the week, Cowan’s extensive experience as a two time major championship caddie with Woods and Furyk will be what Ko is relying on.

Cowan has had previous experience working for prodigious teenage talents having worked briefly for Michelle Wie during her early teenage years.

“I obviously knew him as Jim Furyk’s caddie,” said Ko. "And I know they’ve been together for a long time. Yeah, I think personally he’s more famous than me. I was walking down with David Leadbetter, Mike and I, and a lot of people were asking for their autographs. So, I mean, I don’t really care, but, you know, they’re obviously very popular people. Yeah, he’s obviously a very experienced guy and also a very nice person. And I kind of came across him after talking to IMG, my agent, about caddies.

“If I feel a big connection with a caddie, that’s a big thing. And a lot of the things I need to take ownership and do myself. But hopefully I’ll be able to find a permanent caddie along the way. And that guy might be the one that I had before,” she added perhaps throwing out a signal that one of her former loopers might get the job again.

Ko arrived in Pinehurst off the back of a very impressive 4th place finish in Canada two weeks ago and has spent the time since, not only practising but observing the play at the US Open which finished on Sunday.

Ko might now be one of the most exciting talents in the female game but she is still in awe of those who play the PGA Tour and her experience watching weekend play at Pinehurst left an indelible mark on her.

“I watched some TV coverage when I was in Orlando on Thursday and Friday. But they were playing during when I was practicing outside. So I couldn’t get to watch a lot of it. But I watched some on Saturday. I sat down in one of the grandstands and kind of saw everybody kind of go through. And I kind of watched it on the wrong hole because I was only on the 7th green, and all of the guys were trying to get on in one. And I’m trying to hit driver, 6-iron on to the green.

“But I got out there inside the ropes on Sunday and got to watch some pretty intense stuff. It’s my first tournament watching a PGA tour event. So it was really exciting just to see these guys that I saw on TV just walk by. Some of them knew my name, and I was totally freaked out.

“After I met one, I kind of had a mental breakdown, it wasn’t functioning for a while. But it was just really cool. I probably won’t be able to see the PGA tour players for a long time again.

“Hopefully, this kind of thing might happen more often, I don’t know. I was just super excited that some of them knew who I was. I really wanted to meet Gary Woodland. He’s part of Callaway now, and I was watching on Sunday, on the 17th hole and he came up to me and another player, Sue Kim, and gave us a handshake. That was pretty cool to kind of do it during his round.

“Just every single player. Just being there. I got to hug Sergio Garcia. When do I ever get to do that? (Laughter). I don’t. So every player I looked and said, oh, my God, there’s Keegan Bradley. Oh, my God, there’s Rory McIlroy right there. I’m never going to be that close to them, ever. So it was awesome. And the next time I do get to see them, I’ll be like this, again, have a mental breakdown.”

Ko was asked her thoughts on the course set up and that the event is being played immediately following the US Open.

“I think, you know, there are a lot of worries that there would be divots and pitch marks on the green, divots around the chipping areas and where we would be hitting from. But like I said before, the men hit it from, you know, different tees, and they drive it a lot differently to us. So I haven’t seen that many divots that were a question to where I was hitting my drives.

“And also the chip shots, there weren’t that many around, maybe because they used putters, I don’t really know. To me, it’s been exciting, because I get to see some of the men’s play, and I’ve been trying to get the positive out of it. I’m just excited about the back-to-back Opens.”

At the age of 17 Ko is living a life a long way from the average teenager but she still sees herself as normal in that regard and wants to keep it that way as much as possible.

“I just feel like a normal 17 year old. I wake up and the alarm goes off and I want to like throw my phone, because I don’t want to wake up yet. I feel like a normal teenager when I’m in the hotel, in my room. I don’t feel like the world No. 3. A lot of people — when people will tell me that and ask me stuff about it, then I go, oh, yeah, I am. But, me, I just feel like a normal teenager and think that’s what makes it more fun and exciting. I don’t have to think about everything else. All I need to think about is just hitting the white ball into the hole.”

A question was asked about which country she would represent in certain circumstances, New Zealand or South Korea. Her response was interesting.

“I’m playing for New Zealand right now. And I’m happy playing for New Zealand. Danny Lee is I guess another person like me where he was born in Korea and lives in New Zealand. I’m having fun playing for New Zealand. But at the same time when somebody looks at me they’re not going to think, oh, she’s a New Zealander. I am Korean, you know, you can see. But I think Korea and New Zealand is both in me.

“I haven’t been approached,” added Ko when asked how she would respond if approached as Danny Lee had apparently been as to how she would react. “I don’t know if somebody else has been. But I’ve just been playing my game. And the Korean people have been supporting me, and so have the New Zealanders. So it’s good that they’re both supporting me. So to me that’s pretty special and I’m lucky to have that.”

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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