By Beth Ann Baldry, Golfweek
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – A swarm of bright yellow surrounded Lydia Ko as she wrapped up a pre-tournament news conference at the U.S. Women’s Open. Ko, the 16-year-old wunderkind, gave autographs to a handful of girls her age from the First Tee of Metropolitan New York.
That moment with her peers probably seemed more awkward for Ko than anything she’ll face inside the ropes later this week at Sebonack Golf Club. Ko was only 10 minutes removed from making this humble statement: “Just because I've won a couple tournaments, I don't think it means I'm a huge star and stuff.”
There weren’t many media types on hand for Ko’s presser, which is surprising given her recent success. Ko, the youngest player to win an LPGA event, tied for fourth last week in Arkansas, and had a legitimate chance at capturing her fourth professional title.
Jessica Korda, 20, will make her sixth U.S. Open appearance at Sebonack and will be joined by little sister Nelly in 2013.
At last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Ko found herself shaking on the first tee. This time around, however, she has the experience of three more majors, including a T-17 at last month’s Wegmans LPGA Championship. In six LPGA starts this season, Ko has finished no worse than tied for 25th. She won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open in February.
Players are calling this a second-shot golf course, and if there’s anyone in the field who can keep her ball on a string, it’s the fearless Ko. Add in a caddie, Louis de Kerillis, who happens to be an assistant professional here at Sebonack, and Inbee Park’s record of being the youngest winner of this championship, at age 19, might be in jeopardy.
“Half of my actual shots are pretty much my caddie Louis' thoughts,” Ko said. “He's like, ‘OK, hit it over there,’ and I hit it there.”