When Jin Young Ko won the LPGA's Rookie of the Year award in 2018 we knew we had a superstar on our hands. One year on, we've seen her fulfil her potential – and there is plenty still to come
The story of Jin Young Ko is evidence of just how quickly a player can rise to the very top of the sport.
Twelve months ago we were preparing for another season of LPGA golf and still digesting the year of Ariya Jutanugarn. The Thai sensation took 2018 by storm winning just about everything there was to win, but as she endured a difficult 2019 it was time for a new star to step forward – enter the then World No. 10 Jin Young Ko.
At the beginning of the year she had two LPGA wins in as many years and was teetering on the edge of stardom. But a career season was needed if she was to climb further in the rankings and truly become a headliner on tour.
Thankfully, that prospect came to fruition to propel her to where she is today.
Her talent has been evident for a few years and having won her first LPGA event as a non-member in 2017, she was already set for big things as she undertook full membership last year.
Clinching the 2018 Rookie of the Year prize with four events to spare she took a big step towards reaching the dizzy heights of the World No. 1 spot which she deservedly occupies.
The other nominees
- NCG’s Player of the Year: Suzann Pettersen
- NCG’s Player of the Year: Shane Lowry
- NCG’s Player of the Year: Hinako Shibun
- NCG’s Player of the Year: Tiger Woods
The youth continued to dominate the LPGA winners’ circle this year with the average age of a champion currently sitting at less than 25. Ko was a big player in that statistic with her four wins, including two majors at the age of 24.
Aside from her obvious talent, a factor in her formidable season has been the consistency that she has produced wherever she has teed it up.
In the five major championships she finished inside top 20 in all of them, top three in three of them and of course, won two. She produced when it mattered on the biggest stages time and again.
The level and consistency of her play was summed up by her incredible streak of 114 holes without a bogey which began at the year’s final major, the Women’s British Open, at Woburn where she finished third.
Her success can be told through stats – this season she led the tour in scoring average (69.062) and was almost half a shot better than the nearest competitor. Ko is a green-hitting machine finding a tour best 79.6% in regulation, a full 3% better than the second ranked. Couple that with her top-five putting performance and you have a world-beating game.
The unflappable Korean is quite rightly the established World No. 1 and has been since her maiden major victory at the ANA in April which saw her head to the summit for the first time – she would later also capture the Evian Championship.
She is a charismatic character and is always seen wearing a smile, even through the season-ending Tour Championship when she struggled with and ankle injury.
Golf fans, pundits and players alike seem to have only good things to say about Ko and she has even exceeded her own expectations in 2019.
“My goal was always to finish in the top 20 this season, so that’s pretty good now.”
Former World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa met Ko ahead of her final round at the Evian to offer some support and this coming from a legend of the game clearly made a big impact.
“I met Lorena this morning. My caddie (David Brooker) used to work for Lorena before. I was really happy. She told me to try and make many birdies… I was happy and I’m falling in love with Lorena.”
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