Daytona Beach, FL, United States (4E Sports) – The LPGA has granted membership to 16-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander Lydia Ko, who has already racked up five professional wins as an amateur.
“After reviewing Lydia Ko’s petition, I have granted her LPGA tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season,” LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement. “This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year.”
“We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season. It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA Tour champion,” Whan added.
Ko will compete out of category 7 on the 2014 LPGA Priority List. Category 7 is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the previous calendar year.
Ko did not miss a cut in 25 professional tournaments but due to her amateur status, she had to forgo $934,000 in winnings. She is ranked No. 5 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Earlier this month, Ko filed a petition with the LPGA to seek a waiver of the tour’s rule requiring members to be at least 18. The standard age for LPGA membership is 18.
Ko plans to compete in her first event as a professional at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Florida on Nov. 21-24.
She earned a spot in the tournament field by winning the 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open, her second win on the LPGA tour. She also won the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open to become the youngest winner in LPGA history at 15 years, four months and two days.
“It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA, and to 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.”
“I am so grateful to get the opportunity to play with the players I look up to and respect. I can’t wait to start the season early next year,” she added.
In the past, the LPGA has granted other waivers to players younger than 18. Lexi Thompson was granted the opportunity to compete in Q School at age 16.
Thompson won the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic in September 2011, after winning Stage I of Q School that July, and then was granted LPGA membership for the start of the 2012 season.
Morgan Pressel was allowed to compete in Q School at age 17 and earned membership for the start of the 2006 season when she was still just 17.
Jessica Korda was allowed to compete in Q School at age 17 and finished runner-up there to earn membership for the 2011 season.