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Friday, December 19, 2014
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Published: Monday, 7/21/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

SPORTS COMMENTARY

Million-dollar baby earns her allowance and a victory

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

The last player standing was The Kid.

I don’t know if you remember what you were doing at the age of 17, maybe life-guarding, maybe working the drive-thru window or mowing lawns, maybe cruising the Big Boy parking lot with the cutest guy or girl in high school.

Lydia Ko, at 17, has now won four LPGA Tour events and is the youngest in history to surpass the $1 million mark in career earnings.

RELATED CONTENT: Teenager Lydia Ko wins dramatic Marathon Classic

RELATED CONTENT: The Blade‘‍s Marathon Classic page

After the Marathon Classic ended Sunday, tournament officials handed their champion one of those oversized checks.

“I don’t really think about money when I’m out here,” she said. “When they give [me] the check I go, ‘Oh, it’s $210,000.’ ”

The way Lydia figures, she earned $150.

The rest goes into an account managed by her mother. Ko gets an allowance.

“Ten dollars for each stroke under par,” said Lydia, who finished at 15-under 269. She may not yet have graduated from high school, but she had no trouble doing the math.

And she won’t be cruising any parking lots. She doesn’t have a driver’s license.

But she can drive her golf ball. And chip it. And putt it.

In the final round at Highland Meadows, she birdied two of the last three holes, including No. 18, where she nailed her approach to within four feet of the cup and drilled the putt center cut.

Moments later, when So Yeon Ryu, the 2012 Jamie Farr Classic champion here, hit an equally wonderful approach but missed a six-foot putt, it was over.

The 2014 Marathon was a multi-generational affair.

For 54 holes, it was Laura Diaz, 39 years old and turning back time until time caught up with her.

Then it was Cristie Kerr, not quite as long in the tooth and more recently familiar with the LPGA Tour’s victory lane, but very much a veteran and, money-wise, the winningest American player ever.

And then she ran into her nemesis, and that was that.

That left the kid.

How is this kind of thing possible? It’s not like this is anything new. Ko won her first LPGA event as an amateur at the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open at the age of 15 years, four months, and two days. Even before that, she was the low amateur in several LPGA major championships.

Is she too young to feel pressure? Is she just that darned good? Is she the Teenage Assassin?

Ko sort of liked that suggested nickname.

“They called Inbee Park the Silent Assassin, so maybe that’s a good one, to be close to her,” Lydia, always so serious-looking, said with a little laugh.

Ko said she’s plenty nervous as she steps up to any shot or any four-footer, the putts that make knees knock on grown men with a $5 Nassau at stake.

“I fear a lot of things, and I do get nervous about a lot of things,” Lydia said. “People think, ‘Oh, 17 years old. You’re out here having fun.’ I get nervous. Every shot makes me nervous. Coming down the stretch makes me nervous.”

So the only possible answer is that Ko is just that good.

She emerged from a field of 22 players who entered the day within five shots of the lead. At times in the final round, the scoreboard looked even more congested.

What happened to Diaz was sort of predictable. She hadn’t won since 2002 and, even with an opening-round 62 in the bank, winning pro golf tournaments isn’t exactly like riding a bicycle. You can forget how. She had four bogeys and no birdies and shot 75. No comment, she said.

Kerr led for much of the final round. She birdied her first two holes and got to 5-under for the day after 14 holes. On 15, though, her approach was left and long and she couldn’t get up and down for par from the greenside rough. Then she played the last three holes in even-par. That includes back-to-back, par-5 finishing holes that usually are a birdie fest.

“If you’re going to win here you have to take advantage of those holes,” Kerr conceded.

Kerr played the last two holes in 1-over for the week. Ko played them in 5-under. Kerr finished three shots behind. You can do the math.

Lydia did some too.

“I came in today with a goal of shooting 6-under,” she said.

Hmm. She shot 6-under 65.

And made $150.

“I’m not going to spend a million dollars,” she said. “How could I? Maybe I might get something electronic. I do kind of the teenager thing and be excited when you get some pocket money. When I’m off the course, I like to spend a lot of time on my computer. That’s why maybe I’m this blind.”

She laughed and touched her glasses.

Cute kid, this Teenage Assassin.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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