ORLANDO, Fla. – The joke coming up the 18th on Sunday was that Lydia Ko now owns more LPGA titles (20) than years Alexa Pano has been alive (19). As a young Pano collected her second career top-10 finish with a runner-up showing at the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Ko moved to within one point of qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Inbee Park was the last player to qualify for what’s considered the toughest Hall of Fame in sports eight years ago. At age 27, Park was the youngest to ever enter the Hall of Fame.
With 26 points, Ko is now the closest active player. Laura Davies, who is already in the World Golf Hall of Fame, remains two points shy of the LPGA Hall and plays a limited schedule of four to five LPGA events each season.
Current World No. 1 Lilia Vu remembers watching a 15-year-old Ko win on the LPGA a dozen years ago and thinking, What is going on?
“I remember being like, she’s the same age as me,” said Vu, “and I’m just in high school.”
Vu, who is glad she went the college route at UCLA, remains amazed by Ko’s prowess inside the ropes.
“She can hit the green from anywhere,” said Vu. “I’ve seen her almost in impossible places, and she’ll hit it to 10 feet. I’m like, how did you do that?”
A closing 2-under 70 on another chilly day at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club gave Ko a 14-under total and a victory at her home club. She bought a home at Lake Nona toward the end of 2019, moving in just before Christmas.
Now the seventh woman on the LPGA to reach 20 wins before age 27, Ko joins a list that includes Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Mickey Wright, Lorena Ochoa and Kathy Whitworth.
Ko earned $225,000 for the win to become the fifth LPGA golfer to go over the $17 million mark in career earnings.
There have been times when a lost Ko wondered if she’d ever win again. She’s now cautious about getting too far ahead of herself.
“I won my first event last year (on the LET) and kind of went sideways very quickly,” Ko said of not getting “too cocky.”
And by that, the humble Ko simples means not to let the early success get to her head. To make sure she’s still doing practice swings in her room, along with all the other little things that got her to this point.