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Ko To Go Pro Pronto

by Colin Callander - October 14, 2013

Lydia Ko has decided to turn professional and has written to the LPGA Tour asking it to waive its age limit restriction so that she can join the tour before the end of the season.

The news broke after the 16-year-old’s mother, Tina Hyon, told Golf Channel last week that she would play in next month’s CME Titleholders Championship as a professional and might even make her professional debut in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational the week before.

However, to do that, the LPGA would need to waive its current age restriction that stipulates all its members must be at least 18 years old.

The LPGA Tour confirmed last week that it has received Ko’s letter and said her request would be considered by commissioner Mike Whan once he returned from a trip to Asia where he has been attending the Sime Darby LPGA event in Malaysia.

Lydia Ko

“The decision on the petition will be solely up to the commissioner’s discretion, and upon his review, he will communicate directly with Lydia and her family,” the statement read. “The LPGA does not comment publicly on petitions as they are a private matter between the player and the commissioner.”

There is a precedent that suggests Ko’s wish might be granted. The last time that happened was as recently as 2011 just after Lexi Thompson won the Navistar Classic.

The 16-year-old American asked for a waiver within a week of winning that title and it was granted shortly afterward although her Tour membership was deferred until the start of the 2012 season when she made her pro debut at the Australian Ladies’ Open.

Ko informed the media at this year’s Women’s British Open that she had no immediate plans to turn professional but has clearly changed her mind after a prosperous few months in which she successfully defended her title at the Canadian Women’s Open and then finished second behind Suzann Pettersen in the Evian Masters, the final major of the year.

Earlier in the season, the naturalised New Zealander also won the New Zealand Women’s Open and finished tied third in the Australian Women’s Open, tied 17th in the LPGA Championship and 25th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The rumours about Ko’s plans to turn professional started just a couple of days after she was presented with the Mark H. McCormack Medal, awarded jointly by the R&A and USGA to the leading player on the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. It was the third year in a row the New Zealander had claimed the award.

Ko received the McCormack Medal from Pettersen, in the latter’s capacity as one of three R&A Working for Golf Ambassadors. “Lydia has played brilliantly this year and shown just how good a player she is,” said the Norwegian. “She put me under a lot of pressure at the Evian and showed she can compete in major championships. To finish as the leading amateur three years in a row is a fantastic achievement and I would like to congratulate Lydia on her performance. I’m sure we will hear lots more about her in years to come.”

“I am very proud and honoured to win the McCormack Medal for a third time,” responded Ko. “I know there are many talented young amateurs playing at the elite level around the world so I am delighted to have finished No. 1 on the WAGR again.”

The news that Ko will turn professional clearly did not surprise veteran American LPGA Tour player, Cristie Kerr. She said: “She (Ko) should have turned pro over a year ago.”

English international Amber Ratcliffe is one of a large number of prominent amateurs to have signed up to play in Stage 1 of this year’s Ladies’ European Tour Qualifying School in Morocco.

Ratcliffe, who celebrates her 18th birthday this week, will be joined at Stage 1 by more than 30 other amateurs, including France’s Isabelle Boineau, Germany’s Karolin Lampert and England’s Rachel Goodall, Charlotte Thompson and Emma Taylor. Lampert finished runner-up to Denmark’s Emily Pedersen in this year’s German Girls’ Championship at St. Leon-Rot and then emerged with a 100 percent record on the losing European team at the Junior Solheim Cup.

England’s Lauren Taylor, Scotland’s Sally Watson and Amy Boulden from Wales, all of whom recently have turned professional, also have entered Stage 1. Watson recently missed out on a place at the LPGA’s Ffinal Qualifying School, to be played at the LPGA International course in Daytona Beach, Fla., in early December.

Stage 1 of this year’s LET Q-School comprises three events all played at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam between Nov. 28 and Dec. 8. The qualifiers from the three Stage 1 tournaments progress to Final Qualifying, to be held Dec. 14-18 at Samanah Golf Club and the Al Maaden Golf Resort, Morocco.

Ashton Turner followed in the footsteps of reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and recent U.S. Amateur winner Matt Fitzpatrick when he won last week’s Telegraph Junior Golf Championship at Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

The 17-year-old Englishman, the captain of this year’s winning GB&I Jacques Leglise Trophy team from Kenwick Park, Lincolnshire, started the final day four shots behind Portuguese-based compatriot Nathan Brader but posted a fine 3-under-par 69 claim a three-shot victory on 5-under-par 211.

Brader closed with a 4-over-par 76 to finish in a tie for second place with fast-finishing Jack Singh Brar, who duplicated Turner’s closing 69, while two other Englishmen, James Li and Bradley Moore, shared fourth place on level-par 216.

Reigning British Boys’ champion Ewen Ferguson from Bearsden, near Glasgow, was sixth, two shots further back after rounds of 73, 71 and 74.

The concurrent Telegraph girls’ championship was won by Berkhamsted’s Alice Hewson, a former winner of the English Under-13 title, who earlier this year won the Scottish Girls’ Under-16 Championship at the Strathmore Golf Centre in Perthshire and went on to be part of the winning English team at the European Young Masters in Hamburg, Germany.

The 16-year-old Hewson started the last day two shots ahead of 14-yearold compatriot Samantha Fuller, from Roehampton, after opening rounds of 76 and 73, and that was how it ended after both players finished with 3-over-par rounds of 75.

Hewson joins an illustrious group of former winners of the Telegraph girls’ title that includes Mhairi McKay, Rebecca Hudson, Melissa Reid, Jodi Ewart, Sally Watson, Carly Booth, Hayley Davies and last year’s champion, Emily Taylor, who subsequently turned professional and has enjoyed a successful debut season on the Ladies European Tour.

Turner succeeds last year’s Telegraph boys’ winner, Fitzpatrick, who has gone on to win this year’s Mark H. McCormack medal as leading amateur on the WAGR after an incredible season that has seen him as low amateur at the Open, finish runner-up to Callum Shinkwin in the English Amateur and then became the first Englishman for 102 years to claim the U.S. Amateur title.

Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin capped a fine 2013 season when he finished runner-up at the prestigious Nassau Invitational at Nassau Country Club in New York.

Cormac Sharvin

Sharvin, from Ardglass, carded a 70 to finish T4 in the stroke-play qualifier and then beat Matthew Lowe, Russ Aue and Mark Henderson before losing, 4 and 3, to Westchester’s Max Buckley in the final.

Sharvin emulated Paul McGinley (1988) and Pádraig Harrington (1995) by claiming the notable double at this year’s Irish Close Championship at Connemara. He won the Silver Medal awarded to the leading qualifier and then beat Greystone’s Paul Dunne by one hole in the final.

The Ardglass man was somewhat controversially left out of the Irish team for the subsequent European Men’s Team Championship in Denmark but was in his country’s squad at the Home Internationals where he beat Alastair Jones from Wales on the final afternoon to help Ireland finish second behind England.

The Nassau Invitational was founded in 1897 and is one of the oldest amateur events in the United States. Sharvin was bidding to succeed Darren Crowe (2004), Niall Kearney (2005) and Paul Cutler (2009) as the fourth Irishman to claim the title in the last 10 years.

Lisburn’s Paula Grant heads a group of 14 players who will form the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union High Performance Panel for the 2013-14 season.

The reigning Irish Women’s Close champion will be joined in the squad by Curtis Cup player Stephanie Meadow (Royal Portrush), Irish Girls’ Open Stroke Play champion Olivia Mehaffey (Royal County Down Ladies’) and the experienced Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa, from Slieve Russell. The rest of the group comprises Shannon Burke (Ballinrobe), Jessica Carty (Holywood), Ariana Coyle Diaz (Elm Park), Mary Doyle (The Heath), Julie McCarthy (Forrest Little), Niamh McSherry (Lurgan), Chloe Ryan (Castletroy), Niamh Ward (Lurgan) and Chloe Weir (Shandon Park).

The HP Panel is aimed at players who are committed to making golf development their No. 1 priority and who are prepared to commit to an intensive training programme during the winter and summer months. They will meet for the first time this weekend at Knightsbrook where they will be joined by manager David Kearney, lead physiotherapist Sharon Morris, lead psychologist Chris Lonsdale and their own personal coaches.

The ILGU has also announced a nine-strong National Training Panel comprising Sarah Cunningham (Ennis), Maria Dunne (Skerries), Amy Farrell (Moate), Carla Reynolds (Seapoint), Emma O’Driscoll (Ballybunion), Jean O’Driscoll (Muskerry), Jessica Ross (Donaghadee), Sinead Sexton (Lahinch) and Lucy Simpson (Massereene).

Its members will receive coaching and physiotherapy support from the ILGU and be part-funded to attend overseas international events under the guidance of the High Performance Manager.

Kent survived a late scare before winning the English Men’s Senior Country Championship at the RAC Club at Epsom.

The victors beat Lancashire 5-4 on the opening day and then overwhelmed Lincolnshire 8-1 before coming from behind to defeat Devon 5½-3½ on the final afternoon.

Kent and Devon shared the morning foursomes but were briefly behind in the singles before recovering to claim a narrow victory.

English senior international Richard Partridge led the way with a 4-and-3 victory against Phil Lyons. Ross Galgut lost by one hole to Richard Ward but further victories by Christopher Hurst, Richard Moore and Chris Reynolds sealed Lancashire’s fifth victory in this event.

Reynolds ended the week undefeated after claiming four wins and a halve in his five starts. His teammate, Jon Wright, also shared that distinction, winning three and halving one of his four games.

“It’s wonderful to be champions again,” said Kent captain Mark Singfield. “I’ve had some fantastic guys under my control this week and they have produced some gutsy performances. This is the premier team event for senior golfers and to say we are champions again is a delight.

“I think this is the first time we have faced Devon and they are a tough team as you would expect. The key this week was learning to master the greens. They were tremendous.”

Lancashire claimed second place after beating Devon 8-1 and Lincolnshire 7-2 in the aftermath of their narrow one-point defeat at the hands of the new champions. “Congratulations to Kent but we are getting closer,” said skipper Norman Fletcher. “We’ll be back next year and we will have that title.”

Devon were third thanks to a 7½ -1½ victory over Lincolnshire, who were making their first appearance in the championship and had to make do without their county champion, Richard Latham, the reigning English and Scottish senior champion.

Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free


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