Golf history was made this past weekend, as fifteen year old Lydia Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open. She is for now the youngest LPGA winner, and the first Amateur to win an LPGA event in 43 years.
Which is the bigger accomplishment?
I actually think that winning as an amateur is the bigger deal. We have seen in Olympic women’s sports that women athletes often find success at younger ages than their male counterparts. That’s simply biology. Girls mature faster than boys, so the physical gap between a fifteen year old girl and a twenty something woman is less than that of a fifteen year old boy and a twenty something man.
The amateur part is what really grabs my attention. It has been 43 years since the LPGA had an amateur winner. That was JoAnne Carner, in 1969. The LPGA is an entirely different tour today: Highly professional, full-time, and international (true, Ko is an international player). I find it amazing that a non-college amateur has been able to gain the skills and experience needed to win against full time professional players with their equipment deals, trainers, and all the other perks that the professional tour provides.
Lydia Ko clearly is an extraordinary talent. She now has half as many wins as the once much-ballyhooed Michelle Wie. And one of Wie’s wins was the same Canadian Open.