(Reuters) - New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko knows full well that she will face a formidable challenge next year in trying to replicate, at the very least, her astonishingly successful rookie campaign on the LPGA Tour.
The 17-year-old capped a storming 2014 season by clinching her third victory in a gripping three-way playoff for the Tour Championship on Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
The youngest player in the elite field, Ko also claimed the circuit’s inaugural “Race to CME Globe” title and its $1 million bonus for the biggest payday in women’s golf.
“It’s going to be tough,” Ko told reporters when asked how she could top her golfing achievements from this year on the 2015 LPGA Tour.
“I played pretty awesome this year. I’ve had 14 top 10s and three wins. It’s a year that I would’ve never thought that I would have. It’s a hard year to top off.”
Ko, who earlier this month became the youngest winner of the LPGA’s rookie of the year award, is well aware of the fickle fortunes in professional golf.
“Golf is that kind of game that you can shoot one day a 65 and then 85 the next,” she beamed.
“This has been a great year, but I’m never going to go a step further and have wide shoulders and go, ‘Oh, I won three events and everything.’ You just never know.”
Ko, already a five-times winner on the LPGA Tour, knows her game will always need improvement.
“There is no perfection,” she said. “Even if I shoot a 10‑under, I know I’m going to find a little mistake or a little putt and say, ‘Oh, I wish I had that.’ My game needs work in every area.”
Ko, who was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was six, piled up earnings of $2.09 million on the 2014 LPGA Tour, becoming the first rookie to surpass $2 million in a year.
“It’s huge money, you know,” she said. “Even $1,000 is huge money. For us, $100 is huge money, so it’s getting bigger. But the great thing about my friends is most of them don’t play golf.
“When I’m hanging around with them, we don’t talk about golf or the hook I hit on seven or whatever. So that’s what I really love. I kind of feel like I can get off the course, get my mind free, and just be that teenager.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue