Naomi Ko Ready For Biggest Two Weeks Of Her Young Golfing Life

Victoria's Naomi Ko Has A Couple Of Very Big Weeks Coming Up As She Tees It Up In Two LPGA Tour Tournaments - Image Courtesy USGA

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Naomi Ko hopes these next two weeks will offer a taste of her future. The 18-year-old amateur from Victoria will tee it up in two straight LPGA Tour events, starting Thursday at the Cambria Portland Classic in Oregon. It will be her LPGA debut and she won’t have long to wait for her second stop, which is an even bigger event.

Ko has also qualified to play in next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif. “I do eventually want to be a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, so I think these two events, especially being my first, will be really important and help me decide if it’s something I really do want or not,” she said.

Ko is trying not to put too much pressure on herself as she prepares for the Portland event. She wants to use that tournament, as well as next week’s U.S. Open, as learning experiences. “It is going to be a couple of weeks of learning and gaining new experiences, but I can’t forget to keep reminding myself to have fun,” Ko said.

“It gets very competitive and being in a different atmosphere like that, you can get very down on yourself if you are not playing that well. I have to remind myself it’s my first LPGA tournament, my first U.S. Open. So I just want to have fun, enjoy playing alongside some of the top players and see how they prepare.”

Ko, who just completed her freshman year at North Carolina State University, hopes to renew acquaintances with fellow Canadian Brooke Henderson in Portland. This week is also a first of sorts for Henderson, who will be defending her first LPGA win at the Portland event.

Ko got to know Henderson when they were both members of Canada’s national team. She said Henderson’s success, including her recent win at the Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Golf Club in Seattle, serves as inspiration and helps keep her motivated. “She is a big inspiration to a lot of people, including myself,” Ko said. “It absolutely gives me the motivation to keep going and keep working at it, but I realize I still have a lot more work to do.”

Ko earned a spot in the Portland event by winning the Cambria Portland Classic Amateur Open on June 1. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at a sectional qualifier at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash., in early May. Surrey’s Taylor Kim also has a spot in the U.S. Open.

CHIP SHOTS: Penticton’s A.J. Eathorne and Samantha Richdale of Kelowna are also in the Portland field this week. Eathorne, a former LPGA Tour regular who now teaches at Predator Ridge in Vernon, recently announced she is expecting her first child in December. . .Susan Xaio of Surrey, Alisha Lau of Richmond, Hannah Lee of Surrey and Megan Ratcliffe of Bowser have qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. That event goes July 18-23 at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. Xaio has also qualified to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, which goes Aug. 1-7 at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa.