Lydia Ko said her middle name might as well be “Change,” given all that transpired over the offseason. One thing, however, stayed the same: her results.
Ko carded a 5-under 68 in her LPGA rookie debut, giving her a share of the early lead with Meena Lee in the Pure-Silk Bahamas Classic.
The 16-year-old rookie from New Zealand had a “shaky” start on the first hole, leaving herself a 4-foot par putt. But she converted the par effort and then birdied the second hole, setting up a relaxed round with playing partners Stacy Lewis (69) and Beatriz Recari (77).
“I think it’s great to be paired along with the world’s greatest players,” said Ko, who won twice on the LPGA as an amateur. “To play better golf, that’s even better.”
Like many players on tour, Ko was particularly impressed with Lewis’ work on the greens.
“She seems so confident and so relaxed,” Ko said, “and that’s some of the things I want to learn from her.”
During the offseason, Ko signed with Callaway and changed her equipment. She hired a new caddie and ditched the only instructor she has ever known in fellow Kiwi Guy Wilson. With a desire to set up an American base, Ko figured it best to find a teacher on this side of the globe.
She first met with Sean Hogan and David Leadbetter in November after the CME Group Titleholders. Although she hasn’t settled on a place to move, all signs point toward an Orlando, Fla., residence, with Hogan based at the Leadbetter Academy at nearby ChampionsGate.
Ko said she’s aware of players who had made big changes on the heels of success but isn’t worried.
“That slump stage, you never know when in your career it will happen,” Ko said. “It’s good that I kind of got off into a good start, and it will definitely help with the rest of the season. Yeah, I guess change is quite big, but I wanted a challenge.”
For her part, Lewis didn’t see any reason for concern.
“You can change her golf clubs, you can change her coach, you can change all this stuff, but she’s still the same person on the golf course,” Lewis said. “That’s what I like about her. She gets it done, and that’s all you can say.”