Champion New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko.
Lydia Ko is proving the adage that if you can see it, you can be it, with golf’s world No 2 inspiring a wave of Kiwi girls taking up the game.
On Monday, Ko won the LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship (as well as pocketing the NZ$3.25 million winner’s cheque) as she rose to her highest world ranking in five years.
Golf New Zealand’s talent and coach development officer Elizabeth McKinnon told Stuff‘s sports podcast, The Podium, the 25-year-old’s impact on the sport in New Zealand has been clear.
McKinnon said the number of girls who were golf club members had tripled in the last three years, with 1500 young females now a member of a club.
* Lydia Ko powers to highest world ranking in more than half a decade
* By the numbers: Lydia Ko’s $7 million season and a trio of prestigious trophies
* ‘I’m still 5 in my mom’s eyes’: Reflective Lydia Ko closes in on Hall of Fame
“We’re up to over 1500 girls who are members at a golf club, which has a total of over 10,000 junior members, which is awesome,” she said.
“Part of that is providing opportunities for them to learn and play their way and that’s what we’re sort of doing to meet those needs.”
McKinnon said the way Ko had achieved her success – she is two points shy of the 27 needed to reach the LPGA hall of fame – was also an inspiration to young Kiwi golfers.
“There are lots of amazing young players out there and a lot that aspire to be like her,” she said.
“The dream, I’m sure for many young players is to play on the LPGA or the PGA if you’re a boy, her personality, the way she approaches it, it’s not just the success, I think a lot of it is who she is.
“The person that she is, really connects and resonates with New Zealanders and makes us proud to be Kiwis.”
Ko’s standout 2022 also included a viral moment in May where she put menstruation in sport at the forefront of coverage by saying “it was that time of the month” when asked why she had called on the physio during a round.
“I DMed (direct messaged) her exactly that, thank you so much for raising it and not hiding behind. She could have easily just said that it was back pain,” McKinnon said.
“But she was really clear on why she had that pain and I think it’s showing times are changing.”