It's Official - Ko to Turn Pro

On Monday, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan granted New Zealand amateur sensation Lydia Ko a waiver on the tour's age-limit requirements, allowing the 16-year-old to become a full-time member at the start of the 2014 season.

"We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season," Whan said. "It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA tour champion."

Ko has been the top-ranked woman amateur in the world for the past 130 weeks. While playing on sponsors' exemptions, she's proved her abilities at the highest level by recording two victories on the LPGA Tour - in both the 2012 and '13 Canadian Women's Open, one win on the Ladies European Tour, and two other titles on the Asian LPG.

With her two Canadian Open wins alone, Ko forfeited $600,000 - with each victory bringing $300,000 - because of her amateur status.

With her two Canadian Open wins alone, Ko forfeited $600,000 - with each victory bringing $300,000 - because of her amateur status.

Because of Ko's youth, Whan needed to waive the age minimum of 18 so she could compete on the tour. She plans to tee it up in next month's LPGA Titleholders in Naples, Fla.

"It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA and play against the world's best players," Ko said. "I know that becoming a member is not only performing well, but to deal with responsibilities very well. Women's golf is growing day by day, and I would love to be able to inspire other girls to take up the game, and go for it. I believe this is only the start to my career, and I have many new things to learn along the way."

Here's what else Ko had to tell the media in New Zealand after she received word that Whan approved her request for a waiver.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, or good morning to all of you who are coming in from New Zealand. Thank you so much for joining us on this conference call today. As you all know, the LPGA announced this morning that Commissioner Mike Whan has granted Lydia Ko LPGA membership at the start of the 2014 season. The commissioner informed Lydia of his decision late last week, and due to scheduling, the news was announced today.

We have Lydia here on the call to answer questions from the media. Let's get some initial thoughts from Lydia on learning the news that she will be an LPGA member for the 2014 season.

LYDIA KO: Yeah, I'm really excited to start next year. It was my dream goal to play on the LPGA, and I've never imagined myself playing on any other Tour. Yeah, I was so excited and happy when I got the news from the commissioner, but I know that playing the LPGA Tour is not only about playing good golf or playing out on the Tour, but the responsibilities that come with it. Obviously the LPGA Tour and women's golf is getting bigger day by day, so yeah, lots of the players out there on the Tour, so hopefully I'll get to play a little part in that.

Q. What do you feel like is going to be the biggest difference for you psychologically playing as a professional where you know if you win a check it's yours? How do you feel like that's going to affect you as opposed to knowing that even if you won, the money wasn't yours? Do you feel like that's going to be in your mind at all?

LYDIA KO: Yeah, I think definitely it will be for the first couple of tournaments. Yeah, you know, when I was an amateur playing the professional women's tournaments, it didn't mean much about me going up and down score wise, and now it's pretty much a thousand dollars on the line. But yeah, I've just got to learn to not think about that and just enjoy myself and know it's a great opportunity. Yeah, just got to enjoy myself and have fun with all the experience I'll be able to learn.

Q. I'm curious what your schedule will look like next year in terms of how many events you'll play and how you'll balance that with the remainder of your school, and if you could just remind us how much school you have left.

LYDIA KO: Yeah, I'm not sure about how many tournaments I'll play because obviously the schedule for 2014 season isn't out yet, but yeah, it will be my last year at high school next year, and yeah, I'm definitely going to graduate. I don't think I'll be there as much; I'll be there less. It will depend on the schedule for the 2014 season.

Q. Have you made any decisions about managers?

LYDIA KO: Management?

Q. Yeah, have you decided on an agency?

LYDIA KO: No, we haven't decided anything in that area.

Q. How has the week been since you announced turning professional?

LYDIA KO: Well, nothing has been really different. I've been doing my studies, doing the practice as I normally do any other week. Yeah, nothing feels different. You know, I've been trying to not think about it, and when people do say, oh, you're pro now, I kind of go, "Am I?" Yeah, nothing feels that different, but yeah, it's just quite cool to have turned professional and actually get to play on the LPGA Tour for next year.

Q. You touched on it before, continuing school. Does that mean you're still going to be based here in New Zealand?

LYDIA KO: I think so. You know, I want to go to university, so I do need to graduate high school first. I think I will be based here because all my family is here at the moment. It would be quite a big change to move somewhere else.

Q. Does this mean we'll see you at more tournaments?

LYDIA KO: I'm not really sure. We haven't done the schedule yet, and obviously it is a long way from the States or anywhere else around the world from New Zealand, so yeah, that's something we need to talk about.

Q. The tournaments you've won in the past year in New South Wales and Canada, you spent a lot of time preparing for those tournaments, a lot of time at the courses, but I imagine that's probably going to change if you're full time on the Tour. How do you go about handling that change?

LYDIA KO: Well, because I was an amateur this year and I had limited tournaments, I could spend some time between tournaments and get ready for the next one quickly. But I imagine that's all of the process and the things that come with playing on the Tour. I'm actually quite excited to play a couple weeks in a row for the New Zealand Open this year and I'm playing in Thailand this year, so I can make up a few. I only played (inaudible) a couple times. I came back straight after the New Zealand Open and played pretty good. Yeah, I've just got to stick with those changes. I just want to get the feel of what it's like to be a Tour player. It's obviously a lot of hard work playing three or four weeks in a row and then having one week off and then doing that again. Yeah, I just want to get the feeling. I guess experience is a huge part.

Q. Will you be playing I think I heard that you'll be playing the same equipment, or is there a deal in the works where at CME Group you would have a new equipment deal?

LYDIA KO: No, it will be the same clubs that I was using.

Q. What's it going to be like for you to play your first pro event here at the Titleholders with a field like that?

LYDIA KO: I'm super, super excited. I really wanted to play last year, but I couldn't because of exams. So yeah, I was lucky enough to finish early so that I can go and play, and I've never been to Florida, as well. So there will be a whole new destination, as well.

Q. Just back to Guy, do you want him to stay on as your coach, and if things were to change in that sense for whatever reason, if you couldn't travel with you or whatever, how much would that affect you, because obviously you guys have been working together for years.

LYDIA KO: Well, Guy didn't come to that many tournaments this year. It was only like one or two. And yeah, he's not there with me full time. I know he's not going to be there every tournament. Yeah, I don't know what's going to happen. Like I said before, it's kind of too early to decide what's going to go on because I don't know exactly which tournaments I'm going to play in next year. In that planning process I guess we'll get it done.

Q. Have you thought much about the Olympics and representing New Zealand at the Olympics? I just want to double check, it would be New Zealand you'd be wanting to represent, wouldn't it?

LYDIA KO: Yeah, of course. I'd be playing for New Zealand the last couple of years, and I haven't made any plans to change it at all. I love it here, the culture and the country itself. So yeah, it would be great if I'd be able to play the Olympics. Obviously golf will be in the Olympics for the first time in 2016 in Rio, so yeah, I'm really excited, and if I do get the option to play, I think it would be a pretty amazing period of time.

Q. You said all along that your parents would play a major role in this decision. I'm curious what they've said to you in regards to why this is a good time to turn pro and kind of what their advice was.

LYDIA KO: I don't know, like we just kind of came to an idea, and they thought about it, and then I was doing the New Zealand golf campaign with Augusta media with Israel Dagg as we were both ambassadors for the LOVE Golf campaign. Yeah, we were going to do that, and then I thought I might turn pro that same week that we were filming it. I thought it was a good idea to do it at that time, and yeah, it would be a special memory.

Q. Just looking towards Florida, have you talked to anyone about the attention you may face in your first professional tournament?

LYDIA KO: No, not really. You know, this week and last week has gone real fast, and we tend to think not too much about it. I just think on my practice and think on my studies. Yeah, I've been trying to do less thinking about all the pressure and stuff. I know I will feel a little pressure as it will be my first professional tournament as a pro. Yeah, I'm just really excited, and I can't wait for that moment to come.

Q. And who will you be taking to Florida with you?

LYDIA KO: Just my mom, and nothing will change. Obviously I'll be meeting my caddie there.

Q. Can you just tell us how important your mom and dad have been in shaping you as a player, a person?

LYDIA KO: They've been real big, huge influences, big role models. My dad is always out there with me when I train back here at home. He's more bright than me. He puts in a lot of his time for me, and my mom, she travels with me all the time. She's there doing laundry, being the coach, the manager. She plays a huge role, as well. I know I couldn't be here without them. You know, I believe that obviously the children for each parent is very special, but my parents, they've done so many great things for me. I'm always thankful even though sometimes I don't really say it.

Q. Back on the Olympics, there's been some talk about whether there were big sponsorship deals coming from Korea, they might want you to change allegiances and play under the Korean flag. Are you adamant you want to stay with New Zealand for life?

LYDIA KO: Yeah, nothing has changed. Over the last couple of years that's what I've thought.

Q. Tell us, what was your hardest exam, and what was the exam you had the most fun with?

LYDIA KO: I've actually only done one yet, and that was my English language. We have two papers for English language, and I've got one on Friday. I'm really nervous about the one coming up. It's on commentary stuff. Yeah, I'm really nervous. And next week I've got my photography exam. Yeah, I'm super excited for that. It's about being creative. You can't really go wrong. But something like English or maths you can definitely go wrong. I'm pretty nervous. I don't normally get nervous for exams, but somehow I am.

Q. What is the topic for your paper?

LYDIA KO: This week's?

Q. Yeah, the English paper.

LYDIA KO: Yeah, it's commentary, so just commentary writing.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.