(Reuters) - New Zealand schoolgirl golfing sensation Lydia Ko, still at the tender age of 15, has said the financial rewards for her astonishing success can wait - for now.
Ko opens the defense of her NSW Open title in Sydney this week, a victory which opened the floodgates on a record-breaking 2012 season.
At 14 she became the youngest player, male or female, to win a professional tournament and after turning 15 the youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour at the Canadian Open.
“When I went to prize givings and people say what I have done for that year it was like ‘Oh my God I actually did that?’” Ko told Australian media on Thursday.
“I’m not a person that when I get a win it sinks in straight away,” added Ko, who also won the U.S. amateur championship.
“I was really shocked after seeing what I did. Having an LPGA win as an amateur, it doesn’t come that often, so it was a year that’s nearly impossible to repeat.”
The South Korean-born Ko was also the leading amateur at the British and U.S. Open, rounding off a remarkable 2012 by winning the individual title at the world amateur championship.
“I think I was meant to be the richest sportswomen in New Zealand and it would have been great to have that money,” said Ko, also set for a flood of endorsements in the future.
“But especially after the NSW Open because I knew that I wasn’t going to get any money anyway, I didn’t really have interest.
“I didn’t know how much it was until the media said ‘you could have got $300,000 at the Canadian Open.’ That could have been a nice house.”
Ko, who began playing golf in Auckland when she was five, insisted she will turn professional when the time is right.
“There’s no point in me going in there when I don’t think I’m ready and I’m not that confident,” she said. “I think there will be a point in time where I think it’s the right time.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to wait many many years. A certain time will come suddenly without me noticing.”
Not old enough to drive, Ko was given a parking spot for the defense of her NSW title.
“It gives me a little bit of pressure, especially after they gave me a parking spot,” she said. “I was thinking ‘Oh my god, I should play well.’
“I came second two years ago, last year, I came first, so my goal at this tournament is top five.”
Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty