Golf notebook: Ko goes pro at age 16 on LPGA Tour

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--Lydia Ko has been granted membership by the LPGA Tour, even though she does not meet the circuit's minimum age of 18.
Ko, the 16-year-old phenom from New Zealand, became the youngest player to win on any professional tour at age 14 and has proven she belongs by winning the CN Canadian Women's Open on the LPGA Tour the last two years.
"After reviewing Lydia Ko's petition, I have granted her LPGA tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season," LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement. "This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year.
" ... We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season. It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA Tour champion."
Ko, who played in 25 professional events as an amateur and never missed the cut, passed up $934,000 in winnings but said the money was not important to her.
Ranked No. 5 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, she had to file a petition with the LPGA Tour to seek a waiver of the minimum age regulation.
"It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA, and to play against the world's best players," said Ko, who was born in South Korea. "I know that becoming a member is not only performing well, but to deal with responsibilities very well.
"Women's golf is growing day by day and I would love to be able to inspire other girls to take up the game and go for it. I believe this is only the start to my career and I have many new things to learn along the way. I am so grateful to get the opportunity to play with the players I look up to and respect.
"I can't wait to start the season early next year."
This is only the fifth time the LPGA Tour has granted such an exemption, with the others going to Aree Song (2003), Morgan Pressel (2005), Jessica Korda (2011) and Lexi Thompson (2012).
Among those turned down were Yani Tseng of Taiwan, who eventually rose to No. 1 in the world, and Inbee Park of South Korea, who currently holds the top ranking.
Ko's first event as a pro will be the CME Group Title Holders at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 21-24.
--The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has done away with its international 36-hole qualifying events for the Open Championship and instead will fill out the field with top players from selected events around the world.
Benefiting from the move on the PGA Tour are the AT&T National, the Greenbrier Classic and the John Deere Classic, which is held one week before the oldest championship in the world, which next July will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
"The new Open Qualifying Series will create an exciting build-up to the Open," Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, said in a release.
"We believe it will enhance the qualification process by giving players the opportunity to qualify at 72-hole championships as well as being more convenient in terms of scheduling."
The top four players not already eligible for the third major of the year from the top 12 and ties at the AT&T National and Greenbrier Classic will receive berths into the Open.
One more spot will be reserved for the John Deere Classic, which charters a jet to fly players from its event who also have qualified for the Open Championship to the United Kingdom on Sunday night after the final putt drops at TPC Deere Run.
Previously, a 36-hole qualifier held in May outside Dallas awarded eight Open berths.
On the European Tour, three Open berths will be available at the Irish Open, the French Open and the Scottish Open, in lieu of a 36-hole qualifier at Sunningdale.
There will be 44 qualification spots available to players on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine Tour and the Japan Golf Tour, to fill the Open's 156-man field.
--Lee Chang-woo of South Korea secured a spot in the 2014 Masters by closing with a 1-under-par 70 to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship by three strokes over Shohei Hasegawa of Japan at Nanshan International Golf Club in Longkou City, China.
The 19-year-old Lee became the second Korean to win the championship, joining Han Chang-won, who claimed the inaugural event in 2009 at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China.
Lee pulled away from Hasegawa with birdies on the 12th and 15th holes.
"Playing in the Masters has been my dream since I started playing golf," said Lee, who won against the pros in the Dongbu Promi Open on the Korean Tour in September and tied for second with Rory McIlroy in the Korean Open three weeks ago.
"I didn't think I would have an opportunity (to ever do so), so this is a great honor, as is playing in amateur International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship. I have never been so excited."
Defending champion Tianlang Guan of China, who last year became the youngest player in Masters history at age 14, did not make a birdie while closing with a 73 and tied for eighth.
"It's been a pretty amazing year for me," said Guan, who gave himself a chance to repeat with a 68 in the third round. "I didn't defend my title this week, although I felt like my game was good, but I really appreciate the opportunities the tournament has given me."
Guan became the youngest player to make the cut in a major championship and a PGA Tour event when he finished as low amateur in the Masters, tying for 58th.
--Simon Dyson of England could face a suspension from the European Tour after he was handed a two-stroke penalty and ultimately disqualified from the BMW Masters two weeks ago for tapping down a spike mark in his line during round two of the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai.
Dyson was tied for second at 70-70--140 after two rounds, but before the start of play the next day he was given the penalty and disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard after a television viewers phoned in and notified officials of the infraction.
The ruling was handed down after a review of the videotape.
"Simon Dyson has been disqualified from the BMW Masters presented by SRE Group under the rules of golf (6-6d)," John Paramor, chief referee of the European Tour, said in a statement. "Simon was found to have breached rule 16-1a, which states that a player must not touch his line of putt.
"Television viewers alerted the European Tour to the incident, which took place on the eighth green during the second round, and when the footage was reviewed, Simon was seen to touch the line of his second putt after marking and lifting his ball on the green. He subsequently failed to add a two-shot penalty to his score when signing his card, and as a result has now been disqualified."
With a hearing expected in the coming days, Dyson withdrew from the Turkish Airlines Open this week, it was reported by Reuters.
Dyson said he did not remember tapping down the spike mark.
"My action was in no way a deliberate act with the intention of breaking the rules," Dyson said in a statement. "It was simply an accidental mistake."
Not only did it cost the Englishman a potential big payday in the $7 million BMW Masters, he slipped to 68th in the Race to Dubai, with only the top 60 qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship-Dubai next week.
Because he has withdrawn from this week's tournament, his season is over.
--Xantera, the parent company of the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., has reached a four-year agreement with the LPGA Tour that will keep the Kingsmill Championship on the circuit's schedule through at least 2017.
The Kingsmill Championship will be played for the 10th time on May 15-18, 2014, when Cristie Kerr will defend the title she won earlier this year in a playoff with Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
"Everything about Kingsmill is top notch," commissioner Michael Whan of the LPGA Tour said in a release. "I'm so excited about our long-term partnership, as it ensures that we'll continue this wonderful tradition of showcasing the best golfers in the world at one of the best golf resorts in the world."
The River Course at Kingsmill Resort hosted an LPGA event from 2003 to 2009, a stretch during which it produced a list of winners that included Se Ri Pak (2004), Karrie Webb (2006) and Annika Sorenstam (2008),
After a two-year hiatus, the tournament returned to the schedule in 2012, when Jiyai Shin of South Korea outlasted Paula Creamer in a nine-hole playoff.
--The Champions Tour announced that Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America will continue as the title sponsor of the Allianz Championship, the second event of the season, through 2017.
The Allianz, which follows the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, again will be played on the Old Course at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Fla., on Feb. 3-9, 2014.
"Allianz has a 20-year history of sponsoring professional golf events with the Champions Tour and PGA (Tour) players," said Nancy Jones, chief marketing officer of Allianz Life. "This event is a must-do for people who enjoy great golf."
Boca Raton Champions Golf Charities, charitable arm of the Allianz Championship, raised $500,000 in 2013 to support the tournament's primary beneficiary, the Boca Raton Regional Hospital, and more than 20 other south Florida charities.
The tournament has an economic effect of $15 million on the south Florida area.
"Our success is driven by the great leadership from Dick Schmidt, chairman of Boca Raton Champions Golf Charities, the dedication and commitment of the all board members, plus the generous annual support by the south Florida community-at-large," said Ryan Dillon, tournament director of the Allianz.
"This ... Champions Tour golf event delivers important funding to Boca Raton Regional Hospital, one of the leading medical centers in South Florida. The Boca Raton Champions Golf Charities thanks Allianz for continuing its presence in the region as the BRCGC strives each year to make the tournament the best on the Champions Tour schedule."
Earlier this year, Rocco Mediate, broke a course record with an 11-under-par 61 in the second round on the Old Course at Boca Raton en route to a two-stroke victory over Tom Pernice Jr. in his first event on the Champions Tour.

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