Pepperdine's Momoka Kobori connects with fellow Kiwi Lydia Ko

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Pepperdine's Momoka Kobori connects with fellow Kiwi Lydia Ko

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Pepperdine's Momoka Kobori connects with fellow Kiwi Lydia Ko

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – It’s easy to see how Momoka Kobori came into the spring season of her freshman year highly motivated. The polite, petite Kiwi player with rosy cheeks spent three days shadowing Lydia Ko at her home in Orlando, Fla. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see what goes into greatness.

“To see that right in front of my eyes for three days,” said 18-year-old Kobori, “it was pretty inspiring.”

Kobori, one of three winners of the Lydia Ko Scholarship, traveled from New Zealand to Florida in January with Alanna Campbell as part of a grow-the-game initiative with New Zealand Golf.

Last week, Kobori helped the Waves qualify for the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship for the first time since 2012. Since Kobori met with Ko, she has five top-15 finishes for Pepperdine. She was named West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year for her efforts and is here at Rich Harvest Farms still trying to channel her inner-Ko.

Currently, Ko is the only New Zealander competing on the LPGA. The next highest-ranked Kiwi is another Pepperdine grad, Liv Cheng, who competes on the Australian tour, at No. 399. Two of Ko’s former New Zealand national teammates, Wenyung Keh and Julianne Alvarez, were on the Washington team that triumphed at the 2017 NCAA Championship. The Huskies did not qualify this time around.

“In the future, hopefully I’ll be able to play the International Crown with three other New Zealand teammates,” said Ko from this week’s Kingsmill Championship. “That’s a huge goal of mine. I’m going to do my best to grow the game and make an influence.”

A country needs four players in the Rolex Rankings to qualify for Crown.

Kobori was the one who initially reached out to Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs. It didn’t take long for Gibbs to see what kind of teammate the easygoing, smiley Kobori might be. She first watched Kobori compete at an FCWT event followed by the Junior World Golf Championship in San Diego. A scholarship offer soon followed.

Kobori, who moved with her parents from Japan to New Zealand at age 8, felt Malibu’s climate and smaller community (not to mention the incredible views) felt like home. She was 17 years old when she arrived on campus.

Like Ko, Kobori doesn’t overpower a golf course. It’s her consistency and her putting that turns heads. Like Ricoh Women’s Open champ Mo Martin, Kobori is lethal with her fairway metals.

“She hits a 7-wood like a 7-iron,” said Gibbs.

Added Ko: “Such a great putter, too.”

Kobori and Campbell shared meals with Ko, played golf with her and Christina Kim and took notes on the ways the 14-time LPGA winner practiced and worked out.

“She’s so purposeful with her practice,” said Kobori. “She practices as though she’s playing in a tournament.”

It was intimidating at first, being that close to one of New Zealand’s sporting icons. But Ko and Kobori have something important in common: Both are uncommonly nice.

“I think at first because she didn’t know me very well,” said Ko, “she was a little bit nervous. But after that, day after, she was like a totally new person. I got to see what incredible talent she had.”

The inspiration continues.

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