The Cut : The Cut - Spring 2016
34 THE CUT to the end of his high-school years, began to seriously consider a career in golf. First up, he toyed with the idea of trying to make it as a playing professional, but he quickly came to the conclusion that it was an unrealistic ambition. Much as he loved golf there were other things in life he wanted to be involved in and, hand on heart, he knew he didn’t have the drive to focus solely on golf. But a career as a teaching professional appealed. ... To say Guy’s life at that point was unremarkable is not a criticism, it’s just the way things were. Like most of the rest of us, he was simply getting on with life, which for him involved completing his apprenticeship and working at the club. But then, towards the end of 2002, a slightly-built Korean woman named Tina Hyon walked into the pro shop with her daughter and approached the counter, which Guy happened to be manning that day. Tina wanted her daughter, Lydia Ko, to learn how to play golf. Guy didn’t know it, but his ‘once upon a time’ was just about to become a real-life fairy tale. Guy picks up the story. “I was just starting to get into coaching and at the time I was giving maybe two or three lessons a week. As a trainee, those sessions represented extra income, so when Tina turned up wanting three lessons a week for her daughter I was more than happy to oblige. I had no idea whether or not Lydia could play, in fact I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to communicate with her because she was only five years old and had only recently arrived in New Zealand.” Fourteen years ago it was rare for a five-year-old to be signed up for formal golf tuition, let alone someone who looked more like a budding bookworm than a world-class golfer. On the positive side, Lydia had knowledge of the game, she’d been introduced to golf in Korea and had been taken to a driving range in Sydney. But there were negatives. The big ones were her lack of command of the English language and, to be blunt, an inability to hit the ball out of her shadow. Fortunately, Guy is a patient and kind man. He recognised the hurdles but he didn’t regard them as insurmountable. His main concern was that Lydia enjoy her lessons, which quickly became a mix of short game coaching, English and maths. ... Although, initially, Lydia was just a cute young kid having golf lessons at the behest of her parents, as time went on and her skills – golf and language – improved, the pair developed a relationship that transcended player-coach. For Guy, Lydia became the little sister he’d never had and, in turn, Guy was like a big brother to Lydia. She was comfortable in adult company. Those closest to her were her parents, Tina and father Gil Hong Ko, her sister Sura, who is 10 years her senior, and Guy. Lydia was impish and cheeky – in a good way – and chatty, and her golf game was on the up. The first-ever reference to her playing golf appeared in the New Zealand Herald in March of 2005. The article was written by Dave Leggatt and headlined ‘Fields are getting younger and younger’. Back then, Lydia was newsworthy because of her youth rather than for any display of exceptional talent, but over the next couple of years that began to change. Guy headed overseas in 2008 for a few months, mixing his OE with some coaching and upon his return the steady progression that had marked Lydia’s golfing development started to gain momentum. But it was during the following year, when Lydia was 11 years old and playing for the first time in the New Zealand Amateur Championships, that Guy realised his young charge was better than good. “ The championships were played at Titirangi. Lydia got through to the final, and on the day it became a bit of a media scrum. The TV crews were quite pushy about where they positioned themselves in terms of filming while the girls were playing and I was a little bit worried how it would affect Lydia. In fact, it didn’t seem to faze her at all, she just kept on hitting shot after shot after shot, and it really showed me there was something different about her. And although she didn’t win that day, it was one of the first times I thought that this could be something special.” Just how special she was to become was even more evident in 2010 when Lydia participated in her first New Zealand Women’s Open, played at Pegasus. Here she was, not even a teenager and footing it with some of the biggest names in women’s golf. It wasn’t simply that Lydia performed creditably, she did much more than that. Competing in her first-ever professional event she not only made the cut, she finished in a tie for seventh and was the leading amateur. And so every year after that the momentum increased. Guy was both coach and manager, charged with ensuring her progress continued. To do this meant putting her into the professional environment more often, entering her in larger events that would challenge her mentally. Nothing seemed to get in her way. Guy’s an interesting bloke. Quietly spoken, thoughtful and Ever the coach: these days Guy Wilson is head of instruction at the Institute of Golf.
The Cut - Winter 2016
The Cut - Summer 2017