Lydia Ko became the youngest LPGA winner in history at the age of 15 when she won the 2012 Canadian Open. She became the youngest world No. 1 the next year and has two majors to her name.
Now 22, she’s dropped to No. 24 and has only one victory since 2016.
Her former coach, David Leadbetter, blamed her parents’ “unbelievable ignorance” for Ko’s fall from the top, per the New Zealand Herald.
Leadbetter: Ko’s parents ‘naive’ in golf
Leadbetter was Ko’s coach for three years up until he was fired in December 2016. She had 12 LPGA victories in that span and held the No. 1 ranking for 84 weeks.
Leadbetter told Radio Sport, via the Herald:
"It really is a very sad situation to observe. Her team have to be thinking that they have made some huge mistakes taking an unbelievably talented player and turning her into ordinary.
"I hope she gets it back but restoring confidence is never the easiest thing to do. Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance.
"I'm angry, I'm sad because to me I know what she's capable of doing. And to see her play like this, it's just very sad to see."
Leadbetter said her parents, Gil Hong Ko and Hyeon Bong-sook, are “naive” as far as golf and have misguided their daughter. He described a coddled relationship in which they control her bed time, clothing, practice times and practice itinerary.
Ko missed the cut at the Evian Championship in France and the British Open, both of which are majors. She placed top-10 in four tournaments out of 16 entered this year.
Leadbetter warned Ko about parents
The coach’s comments were identical to one’s he’s used in the past in regards to Ko. After Ko let him go in 2016, while she was No. 1, he described the situation to Golfworld.
“And at some point, they’ve got to let the bird fly from the nest. I would often think, ‘It’s not easy coaching three people.’”
Leadbetter said the habit of deferring to others when making decisions is what hurts Ko on the course. His final advice to her was to take control of her life, golf game and decisions, per Golf.com.
She also struggles with strength and flexibility, he said in 2016, but instead of working on it her father takes her to hit more balls. At the time he also detailed all of the changes Ko was constantly making, an issue that has carried over still three years later. She swaps out coaches, caddies, equipment, sports psychologists and trainers.
"I think there's a lot of factors here. Who knows what's going on inside her head right now and obviously her team needs [to get] things together there because the longer it goes on, the tougher it is for her to get out of it."
Leadbetter said, via the Herald, that he believes Ko to be a “tremendous” person and ambassador for New Zealand golf and would be open to working with her again only if her parents took a step back.
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