LIFE for everyone on Planet Earth is much like sliding doors. Your pathway is largely determined by which doors you open and close and the timing involved. This is the decision-making process we all go through and of late Lydia Ko is sliding a lot of doors.
She has just fired her ninth caddie, yes, nine caddies during her short yet unprecedented career on the LPGA Tour. She has also changed swing coaches three times plus parted ways with Callaway despite winning 14 titles between 2012 and 2016. Concern is growing regarding the supremely gifted Ko given she hasn’t won an event since last July. Fear not, as Lydia Ko remains on a clear course to further greatness despite criticism surrounding her decisions and exactly who is making them.
Ko split with her coach from 2013, David Leadbetter, late last year in favour of South African Gary Gilchrist. Is this such an unusual decision given her winning streak with Leadbetter overseeing her swing? Not really. Lydia has made it very clear she wants to be the best she can be and if that means changing coaches because either the dynamic isn’t working between the two or she doesn’t like the instruction on offer, then that is her prerogative and we can only glean that something was amiss with Leadbetter. Most teaching professionals would agree that his “A swing” didn’t look good on her. Tour players change coaches all the time and a player with Lydia’s natural talent isn’t going to suffer from her coaching split. Furthermore, this is not the first swing coach change she’s made.
She also recently parted with caddie Gary Matthews. The dynamic between a player and caddie is important, but Lydia is the one executing the shots and she knows how to play the game just fine. The slight emotional turmoil she may suffer from the comings and goings of caddies is the only factor that might impact her play. It can’t be easy hiring and firing at that rate, even considering potential parental interference. Lydia is still at the helm and it would be challenging to constantly deal with ongoing caddie employment issues.
Lydia left club manufacturer Callaway for Parsons Xtreme Golf clubs. This decision has the potential to jeopardise her scoring so is of some concern. Tour players place great importance on finding equipment they love and sticking with it. This was clearly a financial decision made by the Ko camp. Can I blame them? No way. She still has a lot to prove but she is hot property when it comes to huge endorsements. PXG has clearly dangled a huge carrot and the Ko team has bitten. I understand the lure of money and Lydia has talked of retiring young, so money won’t be forever thrown at her. But perhaps some stability in the form of equipment and remaining loyal to Callaway should have been a priority for five or six years.
Lydia’s parents have been labelled interfering and overbearing when it comes to decisions around her career. Let’s remember Lydia is just 20 years old. Of course her team is heavily involved in helping her make decisions and I am sure she is extremely grateful for their input. Pointing fingers at the parents is an unfair criticism as the alternative is Lydia manages her own affairs or takes guidance from others who she may not trust implicitly. Her family has her best interests at heart and are doing a pretty solid job of bringing up a child phenom who is the most normal of all the ‘golf geniuses’ on tour today. Her life has been in the spotlight and her achievements will forever be etched in golf history books and yet she remains a down-to-earth, fun-loving kid from New Zealand. Let’s lay off the parents and remember she is still barely out of her teens.
Decisions, money, parents and the spotlight are all things that are fraught with danger when combined, but none of the decisions Lydia and her team have made to date should have any real impact on her future success. When you compare Lydia’s stretch of change to Tiger’s, the two don’t even remotely compare in terms of getting anxious about whether she will win again. Tiger had multiple surgeries, a marital crisis and a public shaming. He changed coaches but that didn’t have as much impact on him as the injuries, the psychological damage and the personal-life crisis. Lydia is still only 20 and has the world at her feet. She along with her team are making decisions as best they can and none are career-enders.
• Annabel Rolley is an Australian golf professional and host of Australian Golf Digest TV www.annabelrolley.com