Naomi Ko of Metchosin chips onto a green during the recent B.C. Junior Women's Championship on The Dunes golf club in Kamloops. Ko

Naomi Ko of Metchosin chips onto a green during the recent B.C. Junior Women's Championship on The Dunes golf club in Kamloops. Ko

Teen golfer the pride of Metchosin

Naomi Ko making statement on the links this season

Naomi Ko is racking up plenty of frequent flyers points these days.

The talented golfer out of Metchosin is chasing her dream and gaining valuable experience playing tournaments and courses from California to New Jersey, not to mention some of the toughest Canadian junior and women’s amateur events on the summer schedule.

This week, the 16-year-old Royal Colwood and national development team member is in Woodstock, Ont. contesting the Royale Cup Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship, trying to better last year’s 23rd place tie.

A lot has changed in a year, not least of which is her improved tournament record.

Among her 2014 accomplishments, she captured the B.C. junior women’s crown in Kamloops earlier this month, then followed it up a week later by tying for fourth at the B.C. Women’s Amateur, just six shots back of winner Taylor Kim of Surrey.

While she was unsuccessful in Oregon last week at gaining one of a handful of regional spots into the U.S. Women’s Amateur, she has nonetheless turned heads with her play.

She won the CN Future Links Ontario championship and came third in the Pacific version of that series. And she posted second- and sixth-place finishes, respectively, in American Junior Golf Association tournaments in St. Louis and Chandler, Ariz.

“My confidence is way better than last year,” Ko said during a recent visit home. “Last year was all right. But out of playing four rounds in a tournament, I’d shoot in the 80s at least once.

“Mentally and physically I wasn’t that prepared. It was first year on the national (development) team and I didn’t know what to expect. This year I came in knowing (more).”

South Korean-born Ko, who turns 17 in September when she heads back to Claremont secondary, has worked hard on her short game in recent months.

“Last year I was not able to get my chips close enough to the green. That’s a big game changer. Mentally as well, I am able to recover after a bad hole as well, which is a big thing.”

She prefers spending more time around the practice green than on the range. Thanks to a more dedicated fitness regime, she’s driving the ball 245 to 255 yards on average, impressive for someone who’s just five-foot-four.

She heads to New York for more tournament play in early August and plans on continuing her mantra of staying positive.

“For this year my main goal was to go into a round and don’t expect too much for myself. Last year I had a lot of expectations, but that didn’t really go well for myself on the course or off. This year, it’s like, ‘have fun, do my best.’ It’s really how you manage yourself out on the course and I’ve worked on that mentally in the off-season.”

Ko, whose parents Tony and Adriana operate the Metchosin Country Store at Happy Valley and Metchosin roads, already has a full-ride scholarship to North Carolina State locked up for 2015. She remains focused on the present, however, and looks to finish her summer on the links with a flourish.

“It’s been going pretty well this year, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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