Lydia Ko has opened up about being “wounded” by criticisms during her career in an open letter to her younger self.
The Kiwi former world number one penned an inspiring piece on LPGA.com titled “Letter to my 15-year-old Self”, reflecting on the ups and downs of her illustrious career so far.
“So much is about to happen – wonderful things and hard things; things that will create joyful memories and hurtful things that will bring you to tears. You will learn and grow as a person from all of them,” Ko, who won her first LPGA Tour event as an amateur when she was 15, wrote.
“The most important piece of advice I could give you is to never take a single day, a single moment for granted. Soak up every experience and embrace every feeling, good and bad, that comes your way.”
Ko also touched on criticisms aimed at her and those close to her, likely referring to her former coach David Leadbetter’s comments about her parents’ supposedly overbearing influence on Ko’s career.
Leadbetter – who oversaw Ko’s rapid rise where she won 17 LPGA titles and two majors – suggested in 2019 that Ko’s parents Gil Hong and Tiny Hon’s involvement in her career was the main reason for Ko’s decline in form.
“Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance,” he said.
“I’m angry, I’m sad because to me I know what she’s capable of doing. And to see her play like this, it’s just very sad to see.”
Ko has since brushed off those criticisms but admits they did take a toll on her, something she says has now made her stronger.
“Others will criticize you and will question those around you, assuming you are being manipulated or led,” she continued in the letter. “Those criticisms and accusations will wound you – knives thrown at those close to you always cut deeper than those you field yourself – but they also make you stronger and more appreciative of the people who stand by your side.
“Just as you are responsible for the shots you hit in competition and the scores you post on your card you are also responsible for the decisions you make that got you there. The advice of others is important. But the decisions are yours. Own them.”
Ko ends the letter with some final advice to her younger self – and perhaps to many young girls around the world looking to follow in her footsteps – to be happy and be herself.
“Finally, young Lydia, that instinct you have to remain approachable and engaging is the right one. The laugh that people can hear from the tennis courts and know that it’s you, that is something you should never change, no matter how self-conscious you sometimes feel.
“When you recognize a volunteer and want to say ‘hi,’ don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about how it looks. Be yourself, first and always. If you do that, words like “brand” and “image;” “platform” and “presence,” will take care of themselves.
“Be you. And be happy. Do that, and everything else is going to be fine.”