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Someday Ko must control her money

07/23/2014, 12:00am EDT
By DAVE HACKENBERG BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Someday Ko must control her money

Most parents will agree that raising kids is the toughest job going. We grow older together with a lot of trial and, if we’re lucky, few errors. The challenges are endless.

But what if your child is a prodigy? What if he or she grows up to be, say, Lydia Ko? Her first-place check in last weekend’s Marathon Classic, $210,000, boosted LPGA career earnings past the $1 million mark.

Ko turned 17 years old in late April. She’s mature beyond her years and seemingly well grounded, but she can break into a case of the giggles, too. She’s the No. 2-ranked women’s golfer in the world, and she’s a kid in the same package. And the $1 million in official LPGA earnings is just the tip of the iceberg that is visible to everyone.

When Michelle Wie turned professional in 2005 — yes, it was that long ago — she signed on the dotted line with Nike and Sony, among others, and her annual income off the course was pegged at a minimum of $12 million per year.

Ko is represented by the mega-agency IMG and already has sponsorship deals with Callaway, a leading golf equipment manufacturer, and with the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Limited. What those affiliations are worth to Ko is anybody’s guess.

But Ko, arguably, is already a better golfer than Wie, and her early career track has been one of substance and not of gimmickry. Financially, the sky — or maybe somewhere beyond — is the limit.

Someday, I assume, Lydia will see all that money, but that’s just an assumption.

She said Sunday that she doesn’t think about money and that her winnings go into “my mom’s account.” Ko said she gets a weekly allowance that factors out to $10 for every shot under par. Using that formula the Marathon Classic put $150 in her pocket.

I was somewhat taken aback when she said that only because I’d never given it much thought. Where, or to whom, does all the money go?

Ko, who claims New Zealand as home, is South Korean by birth. Wie was born in America to Korean parents. This is not to automatically lump them with dozens of other Korean golfers who came to the U.S. tour and seemingly became the family business, the cash cow.

Maybe that’s fair. A lot of family money was presumably invested in product development.

My wife and I spent thousands so our youngest daughter could travel the U.S. playing volleyball. And we got thousands back in college costs that were covered by the grant-in-aid Beth and her talents earned. I’m not sure there was any quid-pro-quo plan, but it worked out. So I get it.

It is common sense that one or both parents accompany these young girls when they embark on their LPGA journey. But when is the cord cut? Wie is almost 25 now, and she could hardly take a step at Highland Meadows without bumping into dad or mom.

Lydia Ko seems like a well adjusted young lady considering the spotlight into which she has been thrust. She pretty much plays, practices, and signs autographs. Her mom, Tina, handles the rest — travel, meals, hotels, paying the caddie, etc.

It’s an interesting trade-off from a normal childhood. I don’t pretend to know what’s right or wrong, but here’s hoping Lydia someday gets her hands on that account.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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