Golf: Kiwi teen star Ko signs with IMG

New Zealand teenage sensation Lydia Ko (above) announced on Friday, Dec 13, 2013, that she had signed with management giant IMG Worldwide, just two months after turning professional following a stellar amateur career. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
New Zealand teenage sensation Lydia Ko (above) announced on Friday, Dec 13, 2013, that she had signed with management giant IMG Worldwide, just two months after turning professional following a stellar amateur career. -- FILE PHOTO: AP

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand teenage sensation Lydia Ko announced on Friday that she had signed with management giant IMG Worldwide, just two months after turning professional following a stellar amateur career.

The 16-year-old, who won her first tournament as a pro in Taiwan last Sunday, is already ranked No.4 in the world, generating a wave of hype that has seen Time magazine name her as one of the world's most influential teens.

Ko, whose grounded attitude has impressed pundits, said having IMG manage her affairs would allow her to concentrate on her game.

"My family and I spoke with many candidates and IMG emerged as the clear choice to represent me, in large part because of their global reach," she said in a statement.

"I am comfortable knowing that IMG will commit the appropriate resources to help my career excel while I focus on golf."

The Korean-born prodigy will be keen to avoid the pitfalls experienced by her American stablemate at IMG Michelle Wie, who has failed to live up to expectations since turning pro aged 15 in 2005.

The US LPGA usually restricts membership to golfers aged 18 and over but granted Ko a special waiver because of her achievements as an amateur, which included becoming the youngest player to win a pro tournament - at 14.

She won four professional tournaments as an amateur but had to forgo millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorships, a situation IMG will no doubt be quick to rectify when it takes over her management.

"We will be employing all of our experience and our global resources to her benefit," IMG's global head of golf Guy Kinnings said.