LPGA grants Ko tour membership

(SportsNetwork.com) - Teenage star Lydia Ko has been granted full membership on the LPGA Tour starting in 2014.

LPGA Tour commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement, "After reviewing Lydia Ko's petition, I have granted her LPGA Tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season. This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year."

The 16-year-old has won the Canadian Women's Open each of the last two seasons. Due to that, she will compete out of category 7, which is "reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the previous calendar year," according to Whan.

Ko owns four professional wins in all. Along with the Canadian Women's Open titles, she won the 2013 New Zealand Women's Open as well as the 2012 Bing Lee Samsung Women's NSW Open. All four wins came while Ko was still an amateur.

The teenager, who officially turned pro last week, also took second place at the season's fifth and final major, the Evian Championship. Her play has helped Ko soar to No. 5 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

"I am very excited to become a member on the LPGA Tour. It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA, and play against the world's best players. I know that becoming a member is not only performing well, but to deal with responsibilities very well," said Ko, who won't turn 17 until April.

"Women's golf is growing day by day and I would love to be able to inspire other girls to take up the game, and go for it. I believe this is only the start to my career and I have many new things to learn along the way. I am so grateful to get the opportunity to play with the players I look up to and respect. I can't wait to start the season early next year."

LPGA policy states that a player must be 18 years old to be eligible for membership, however females between the ages of 15 and 18 can apply for membership by petitioning the commissioner. The commissioner makes the decisions on those petitions at his discretion.

Ko will make her first professional start at the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Titleholders, which will be contested from November 21-24.

The last player to petition the commissioner and have her petition accepted was Lexi Thompson, who was also 16 at the time she petitioned the commissioner.