BELLEAIR, Fla. – Lydia Ko’s 10th season on the LPGA has come to an end. The woman who swept the postseason awards last year at the CME Group Tour Championship won’t be in the field to defend her title in Naples, Florida. The former phenom’s glorious comeback campaign flamed out in 2023.
For all the out-of-the-blue success stories on the LPGA this year, Ko’s struggles are by far the most shocking development. Winless on the LPGA this season, Ko finished 101st on the CME points list. While the top 100 keep their fulls cards for next year, Ko can use her winner’s status to get into plenty of events next year.
A 16-year-old Ko said at the start of her LPGA career that she wouldn’t play past the age of 30. Now a decade into a career that’s yielded 19 LPGA titles, including two majors, and more than 100 weeks at No. 1, Ko knows she’s deep into the back nine of her career. The two-time Olympic medalist (silver and bronze) wants to play for gold next summer in Paris. She also wants to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. She’s two points shy of the 27 needed, which means two regular-season wins or one major title would get her there.
Did the pressure to reach the Hall get to her this year?
“I think so,” she said. “That would be a lie, I think, if you said no.”
The truth is Ko doesn’t know when she’ll call it quits. She could, as she said, win two tournaments and say, “peace out.” She could retire after the Olympics next year. She could get inspired by more success and decide to play til she’s 30.
What she does know is that she doesn’t want to come to the end and ask herself, what’s next?
“I want to have my second chapter, whatever the career may be, like, ready before I retire from competitive golf,” she said, “so that I’m not lost.”
Ko has talked to enough retired athletes to know that without a plan, an identity crisis could unfold. She wants to be prepared enough to leave the tour with a new sense of purpose. Lorena Ochoa, she said, is a role model for how to retire right.
What Ko knows for certain is that she’d like to finish the degree in psychology that she started eight years ago in South Korea. She has a year and a half left. Now married and living in California, the idea of finishing off that degree at a place like Stanford intrigues her.
There was a time when Ko wanted to study law, not because she wanted to become a lawyer, but because she found the law fascinating.
“I think some of my…