Interview with Lydia Ko


By USGA
August 12, 2012

THE MODERATOR:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming.  Very happy to have Lydia Ko, our 112th U.S. Women's Amateur Champion, beating Jaye Marie Green 3&1.  It's been a little while now, tell us what's going through your mind right now?

LYDIA KO:  I think I'm starting to think.  Yeah, because the last hole my mind kind of went blank.  I didn't know what was going through, but I'm trying to remember what happened.  Yeah, it's more taking time, and now I can relax. Because usually even after your round, you know, you've still got the next day or the next match coming up.  So, you know, free time, and maybe no golf for the next two days, a two‑day break.

Q.  Winning the United States Championship that's been going on for 112 years, what does it mean?

LYDIA KO:  It means a lot.  I haven't won a tournament in the States before, so it's good.  I think I've won one tournament in Australia like internationally.  It's pretty amazing, and this tournament is classified as the top amateur event for me, so it means a lot. I've played such good golf, and it was hard coming up and it wasn't easy in any matches or any shots. It means a lot.  I think hopefully it will mean a lot to New Zealand because I'm the next winner of the U.S. Amateur after Danny Lee. 

Q.  Where does that rank among your best accomplishments this year?

LYDIA KO:  I think this would be my first one.  I mean, winning a professional event is amazing.  But to me as an amateur, this tournament was much more meaningful. I was talking with my psychologist, my mental coach before we came over to the stage, and he said what do you think your biggest tournament is and meaningful tournament?  And I said probably the U.S. Amateur.  It's more meaningful than the U.S. Open for me at this stage. It's good to win it, and my mom before told me if you win I'll get you to meet my favorite Korean movie star the next day.  And I was like, oh, yeah.  So after my round finishes, it was like, okay, I'm going to meet him.  So I think that's the most happiest I am for now.

Q.  What is his name and how do you spell it?

LYDIA KO:  Ji Sub So.

Q.  How is she going to pull that off?

LYDIA KO:  I don't know.  My Auntie is in Korea, and she's talking to someone that she knew and that lady kind of lives near him.  So I was like okay, all I've got to do is win. Well, and I'm going to Korea I think after the Canadian Open.  So I think that within a week I'll hopefully be able to meet him.  I don't know what my first words are going to be.

Q.  On the last hole, could you talk about your shot, your drive, and the approach with the putt?  How long?

LYDIA KO:  I had a 3‑wood down the middle, and Jaye hit a nice shot before me.  I was 27 yards exactly away from the pin.  And that hole somewhere it was shorter than the actual measured distance, so I hit an 8‑iron, but I had a 33‑foot putt, and I left it two and a half to three feet on the hole. Jaye, unfortunately, hit it into the left rough for her second shot.  So after her par putt, she gave me ‑‑

Q.  I think so many players petition to play on the LPGA and try to go early.  What are your thoughts on that?  Are you in a hurry?

LYDIA KO:  No, I'm not in a hurry.  Like my role models like Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson, they somehow went really quickly like before age 18, but I think they were like 17 and Lexi's 15.  But they are my role models, but I don't want to go that way. I want to go to college as well, so turning professional isn't a priority.  There are so many things to learn as an amateur. They are my role models, but I don't want to go their path.  Some people say, oh, do you want to go professional?  And I'm like, no, I want to go to college.  They're like, really?  But there are so many people in New Zealand that go to college overseas, and I think that kind of inspired me.

Q.  You visited Stanford for the Girls' Jr., right?

LYDIA KO:  I went actually last year, and it was amazing.  I tried to imagine me going to school there, and I was like, wow.  You've got to be pretty good to go there.  But it's kind of hard because I missed so much school because of golf, and it's such an academic school, so. We're kind of thinking twice, but I've still got two years till I graduate, so plenty of time.

Q.  Are you keeping up with your school work?

LYDIA KO:  I've got a golf scholarship for school, so they understand if I'm away.  A couple of years ago they called to see why I wasn't at school, and now they're like, oh, she's at golf. Sometimes I'm in class and sometimes the teachers don't realize I'm there.  She goes, oh, Lydia's absent.  And I'm like no, actually, I'm here. It's hard to catch up, and I had a lot of work to do over here.  But I want to do it, but it's such a stressful week by itself.  I have to do it.

Q.  You're close with Minjee Lee and she won the Girls' Junior a couple weeks ago.  Did she have any advice for you?

LYDIA KO:  No.  But she gave me these breathing exercises and she said, well, like after my first 18.  She said it helped with her with the last few holes.  That was a great match between Alison and her as well.

I think that helped, and I kind of do another breathing thing as well, and I do that and it also helps, I think.  I mean, other than that, there were a few other tips from people back at home, so I kept saying that to myself in my head.

Q.  Lydia, how important was the afternoon round for what happened on the 9th hole?  It looked like she might pick up a stroke there.  She hit a nice tee shot and you almost holed out.  How important was that in your mind to the way the second 18 approach?

LYDIA KO:  Like 6, 7 and 8 I won those three holes, and it was just straight up.  And unfortunately, that hybrid I hit it once before on the par‑3 and it went left.  So I said, okay, let's just hit a good shot, and it went right.  I said, oh, my God.  What's happening? There are obviously plenty more holes to go, so you never know what's going to happen.  But I just hit it aggressively and think of it as like a practice shot.  Because she hit it close anyway, and she's been putting pretty good.  So, I hit it, and I hit it close, but I was curious how close it went.

Q.  It rimmed around the cup.

LYDIA KO:  Oh, really?  That was new.

Q.  You were talking about some bad thoughts you had of a previous championship when you were 4 down and 4 to go, and you ended up winning an extra hole.  Can you talk about what you did?

LYDIA KO:  Well, I thought, oh, why am I even thinking that?  That was a good plan, but it's bad for me now.  I was going, oh, okay, I actually won that tournament.  And I was like, okay, you're good. My coach always calls me Champ, and I said, oh I'm a champion, so I can do this.  I'm winning.  And you've just got to believe in yourself. My dad says you never know what's going to happen until you take your glove off and you say your thanks and everything.  I just said, well, I'm a champion. You know, you've come so far, and even if I do lose or go dormie up, I go to extra holes, it doesn't matter because I tried my best.  It's not like I gave up suddenly and I lost. I mean, Jaye is a great player, and she's really the one who fights back.  It was good to have that because, you know, sometimes some people might give up after they're losing.  It was good to see that she was trying her best to do that.  I think that helped and it made me want to win it more.

Q.  You've been in the States for a while now.  It's been a successful trip for you.  What has the accent been like?

LYDIA KO:  It's been good.  I think I got an American accent somewhere.  I've been told in New Zealand, Did you mean to say water?  Because we say water.  And I was like, okay, can I get a glass of water?  (Laughing) So, yeah. Like at the start of the year, I'm half Australian, and then the middle of the year I'm half American.  So I've gotten a medal from each tournament, and hopefully that will continue with the next few.

Q.  Where have you been staying?  In hotels or a host family?

LYDIA KO:  We went with a host family at the Juniors in San Francisco, and we were at hotels for the Open and here.

Q.  Does your mom play golf?

LYDIA KO:  No.  Everyone gets surprised because neither one of my parents play golf.  Like I said in my speech, my aunt and uncle really love golf, and we visited them, and she gave me two clubs.  Like people think when they don't know who my dad is, they think he's my coach.  Here they think my mom's a genius in golf.  But, no, none of them play golf. They did with me at the start when I was much younger, but then they realized you know my mom used to travel with me and do picking up and stuff from school and everything.  And my dad needs to train, and they wouldn't help me, and I'd lose my concentration in my game.  So they did a little, and then they quit.

Q.  What was your aunt's name that gave you the club?

LYDIA KO:  That would be hard to spell, but Insook Hyon.

Q.  That's your mom's sister?

LYDIA KO:  Yes.

Q.  What is the difference between how your mom caddied for you and a professional caddie?

LYDIA KO:  I only had a professional caddie like twice or something.  It's kind of different because you kind of get to know your professional caddie as the week goes, and I guess that's what practice rounds are for and everything. But my mom has been with me the last 15 years and something days, so she knows what I'm doing and she's got experience, so it's different. It's sometimes more relating to the professional caddies there because they're not your family.  Obviously it counts that your player is playing good, but when my mom's there, it's her daughter, so it's totally different. Like when you're with a different person or even my coach, we're still like I take the boss position.  But with my mom, I can't really be the boss.  I'd like to, but she'd say I'm still 15, and she'll say she's had more experience in life.  So I'll never be the boss.

Q.  Does your mom have any good advice that helps you?

LYDIA KO:  I don't know.  The biggest thing that affected me is I was going down 1 on the first round, and I said okay.  You know, I wish I can get silver, and she was like, you're nervous, right?  And I was like, um, not really. I was actually more nervous yesterday when I played Ariya.  And she said, no, I think I was shaking more yesterday.  And she was like, are you sure?  And I was like, yep.  And I said, are you nervous?  And she was like are you sure? She said she was much more nervous when I was much younger, but I'm sure she was nervous.  I heard that she walked away on the 17th when I was putting.  So it shows that she was a little nervous. Sometimes you don't feel nervous, but inside you are, I guess, butterflies.

Q.  What did she tell you after you won?  The first thing?

LYDIA KO:  She didn't say anything.

Q.  Really?

LYDIA KO:  Yeah.  I tried to look for her, and then I think the interview, the Golf Channel people talked to her before me.  I think that was good because I got to share my win with her at the Aussie Open as well because she caddied there.  So it's pretty good.  Good for her and good for me.

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