New Zealand golfing superstar Lydia Ko has penned a touching letter to her 15-year-old self, revealing a rare insight into just how hard the sport can be for its athletes.
Ko, who became youngest woman to win an LPGA title at 15, wrote the missive as part of the tour’s Drive On series, aimed at inspiring young women.
Despite a seemingly dream run as a teenager in the sport – she also became the youngest woman World No 1 at 17, the youngest woman to win a major at 18 and the youngest woman to win the Player of the Year Award, also at 18 – Ko had words of warning for her younger self.
“For a while, winning will seem routine, almost automatic. You will lose track of all the ‘firsts’ and ‘youngest evers’ you set. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s easy. And don’t for a moment believe it will last forever,” she wrote.
“One week, one season, one year or two, every shot will seem simple and every putt will look like a tap-in. Then, a week or two later, maybe longer, the shots that used to land exactly where they should will fall just a fraction to the left or right. The putts that seemed to find the centre of the hole will veer off by mere centimetres.”
However, she paired the warning with encouragement that golf was simply a sport that offered up more than its fair share of roller-coasters in form and she should have faith in the hard work she had put in to her game.
“Don’t panic. The game hasn’t abandoned you. You haven’t forgotten how to play.
“There is good news. Just as quickly as the game can slip away, with hard work and self-belief it can come back. And when it does, you will be stronger and wiser for having traveled the rough road to get there.”
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“Others will criticise you and will question those around you, assuming you are being manipulated or led. Those criticisms and accusations will wound you – knives thrown at those close to you always cut deeper than those you field yourself – but they also make you stronger and more appreciative of the people who stand by your side.
“Your golf swing may come and go, but your family and friends, the people who care about you, will love you no matter what you shoot. Trophies are symbols of what you’ve accomplished in the past. Your family and friends represent who and what you can be in the future. Their hugs, their presence, their laughter is life’s greatest victory.”
Ko had one final message for her teenage self and that was to keep things simple, embrace her own personality and let that guide her above any expectations that come with being a professional athlete.