- Alistair Tait
Welcome back Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko is a popular figure at Woburn Golf Club. I suspect she’s a popular figure at many golf clubs that have hosted women’s tournaments, majors or otherwise.
Many who’ve encountered the affable New Zealander will be overjoyed by her seven-shot victory in the Lotte Championship to break a three-year winless streak. It was precisely 1,084 days since Ko last picked up a title, the 2018 LPGA Mediheal Championship.
Her winless drought wasn’t as long as Jordan Spieth's (1,351 days) or Hideki Matsuyama's (1,344 days). Indeed, Spieth winning the Valero Texas Open and Matsuyama’ Masters win gave Ko the confidence to get back to winning ways.
“With Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama winning the last couple weeks, and I know it's been a while since they won as well, that kind of gave me a little bit of hope saying maybe I could follow that trend,” Ko said.
A Ko win was on the cards following her record 62 in the final round of the ANA inspiration, the lowest round ever recorded in a women’s major.
As I wrote last year when she failed to convert a five-shot lead into victory, Ko knows the definition of "humility." The way she handled that loss was pure class, a complete contrast to how Brooks Koepka conducted himself during the 2020 PGA Championship.
The way Ko dealt with the aftermath of her most recent win was also pure class. No surprise she was honest enough to admit she had her doubts about getting back to winning ways. It was also obvious she doesn’t take for granted how fortunate she is to play golf for a living, a very lucrative living. Ko said:
“When you're in that position and it doesn't happen, you do doubt. If I said no I didn't doubt myself at all I think that would be a lie.
“Hand on my heart, I know there were times that I wondered, hey, I don't know if I'm ever going to be back in the winner's circle.
“But I'm obviously grateful for everything that has happened in my career.”
That much was obvious to Woburn members on both occasions the world’s best women teed it up in the Women’s British Open over the Marquess course. Ask anyone who came into contact with the Kiwi and you’ll hear nothing but high praise.
In 2016, the former world number one played behind a regular group I play in at Woburn. She was in a buggy with her mother enjoying the delights of the Duchess course when she inadvertently drove into the group in front. Ko was mortified and immediately drove forward to apologise profusely.
As the photograph shows, Ko (left) was a welcome participant along with Brittany Lang in the tee party photo shoot my dog Izzy managed to sneak into to promote the 2016 Ricoh Women’s Open. Lang, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion, was also a delight during that photo shoot.
Indeed, most of the players competing in the two Women’s Opens were fantastic to the many Woburn members who volunteered their services those weeks. Yes there were one or two who acted like the sort of entitled, spoilt sports stars that give professional golfers a bad name, but the majority were polite, courteous and extremely professional.
Pretty sure if you canvassed Woburn members who volunteered to work the two Women’s Opens and the European Tour’s 2015 British Masters, you might find they preferred dealing with the women over the men. From conversations I’ve had with members, the women were far more grateful for their services than the men. True, not all European Tour players are entitled, selfish brats who forget to say “please” and “thank you.” However, and I speak with a modicum of experience, there are too many who feel everything should be handed to them on a plate, too many who often forget volunteers working tournaments are doing just that: volunteering a their time to help them earn more money than they probably deserve.
Ko has probably never treated a volunteer with contempt in her life. In fact, she’s probably never treated anyone with contempt. She’s a credit to her profession, a role model others would do well to copy.
Welcome back Lydia Ko. Now if another model professional called Martin Kaymer can get his first win since the 2014 U.S. Open the world of golf will be in a far better place.
#JustSaying: “Golf is a game in which perfection stays just out of reach.” Betsy Rawls
Photograph by Dave Canon, Getty Images, courtesy of IMG