Ko Cashes In – Big $ For Amateur Golf Star

Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko

It looks 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open winner Lydia Ko will have a little help in continuing her amazing amateur golf career.

Ko, who stunned the golf world with her LPGA Tour win at The Vancouver Golf Club last year, recently secured $230,000 NZ of support in her native New Zealand.  The money to aid her worldwide travels comes by way of High Performance Sport New Zealand and was announced last month.

The funding for Ko is being provided over the next two years as part of a massive push by the New Zealand government to prepare athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympics.  Ko, at just 15 and the youngest winner ever on the LPGA Tour, is the leading candidate to represent her nation for golf, which is returning to the Olympic fold in Brazil.

According to reports, until now Ko has relied on a trust fund adminisred by New Zealand golf, the support of her parents and the generosity of New Zealand philanthropist Sir David Leveve to fund her travels around the world for training and tournament play.

Besides her win in Vancouver there is another Canadian connection to this story.  The current Chief Executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand is none other than past 2-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada, swimmer Alex Baumann.   The Czechoslovakia-born Baumann took on his role in New Zealand last January. He left the job as the CEO of the Canadian Own the Podium program to return down under. he had previously worked in performance sport administration in Australia for more than a decade.

Baumann was known the bristle at the sport funding model here in Canada, feeling it needed to be concentrated more achieve better results.  It shows in this decision regarding Ko.

It seems lot of lot of money to support a single athlete but obviously Ko has proven her potential and the government of New Zealand wants to ensure she has the best chance to win a medal in Rio.

She now has better backing than a lot of pros trying to make a living at the game.  That fact is bound to lead to a many interesting discussions in golf circles.

The money for Ko converts to $190,000 CDN.  Again, that is to support just one athlete.  Yes, given that she is from New Zealand travel expenses would be prohibitive but it’s still a healthy allocation for a single golfer.  There is no word on whether she will still be receiving money through the Trust fund as she has been.  If, so her available budget might reach unprecedented heights for an amateur golfer.

By comparison Golf Canada spends $2.7 million on all their Sport Development initiatives.  That includes Team Canada, Golf in School, Future Links junior program, and Golf Fore The Cure.  Those program touch literally thousands of people across the country.

Sport Canada Funding (Government of Canada) provides approximately $855,000 of that budget, most of which is used to offset the costs of the High Performance/Team Canada program which currently involves 22 athletes.

Of course, had Ko been a pro last year she would likely not be in need of the government cash.  Her victory alone at the CN Canadian Women’s Open would have been worth $300,000.  That money went to 2nd place finisher, Inbee Park.

One begins to wonder where the line really should be drawn between amateur and professional.  While Ko is not in violation of the rules of golf it seems like a pretty tilted playing ground, especially for those within her own country that have to compete with her.

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