Teenage phenomenon: the rise of Lydia Ko

What had you achieved before your 18th birthday?

Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko after her victory at the ISPS Handa LPGA Australian Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lydia Ko has broken more records during her unprecedented career than anyone else in the world of professional golf

Lydia Ko has broken more records during her unprecedented career than anyone else in the world of professional golf.

What about Tiger Woods, I hear you ask? Well, it took him until the age of 21 to become world number one. Ko reached that landmark before being able to legally drink in both the nation of her birth and the country where she now resides.

The South Korean-born Kiwi is yet to reach the age of 18, but she's already 1.33 points clear of five-time major champion Inbee Park atop the Rolex Rankings.

Simply put, the precocious teenager is blazing a trail you suspect won't ever be replicated.

That sounds like a brash statement, given golf's technological advancements, the truly global nature of the game and a host of other factors, but Ko is in a league of her own, and has been since her childhood.

The world of golf has never seen anyone achieve so much at such a young age, and probably never will.

What's so staggering is the way Ko carries serenely on, blissfully unperturbed and unaffected by her position at the top of the women's game.

The world number one ranking has done some incredible things to so many people - Park famously declared her joy when she relinquished the title due to the additional pressure and scrutiny it attracted, while a host of men have reached the pinnacle of the sport and decided a drastic overhaul of their swing was in order.

It remains to be seen if such afflictions will strike Ko. If they don't, she could be out of sight at the top of the world rankings before too much more time elapses.

Below, we look at the significant moments in the truly astonishing life of this teenage sensation….

2005 - Ko competes at the New Zealand National Amateur Championships at the age of seven.

2009 - wins the North Island Women's U19 Championship at the age of 11.

2010 - triumphs at the New Zealand U23 Championship and ties for 7th at the New Zealand Women's Open - a professional event.

2011 - comes first in both the Australian Women's Stroke Play and New Zealand Women's Stroke Play at the age of 13; reaches number one in the World Amateur Rankings.

2012 - becomes youngest-ever winner of a professional event, aged 14, at the New South Wales Women's Open (ALPG Tour); wins the Australian Women's Amateur (14) and US Women's Amateur (15); finishes as low amateur at the US Women's Open; wins CN Canadian Women's Open to become youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event (below - Getty Images).

Lydia Ko

2013 - becomes youngest winner of a Ladies European Tour event at the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open; breaks tournament record in defending the Canadian Women's Open, becoming the first amateur to win two LPGA Tour events; LPGA Tour waives its minimum-age requirement to allow Ko to join the Tour after she turns professional on October 23, aged 16.

2014 - claims first victory as a LPGA Tour member at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic during her 17th birthday week; wins the Marathon Classic; wins LPGA Tour rookie of the year accolade after coming first at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

2015 - becomes women's world number one in February, aged 17, breaking the previous record (men's or women's) by four years; notches her 6th title at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.

Nick Bonfield
Content Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email nick.bonfield@futurenet.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x