SINGAPORE – The foundations of Ko Jin-young’s dominance in golf were laid early in her childhood – not on the golf course, but in the boxing ring.
The South Korean was born into a family of boxers – her father Ko Sung Tae and late grandfather Ko Ik Joo were both boxers – and the former got her into the sport at a young age with the intention of training her to be able to fend for herself.
She would spar against boys and have rope-skipping competitions with her father, which both were always determined to win.
While she no longer boxes, that competitive spirit has stuck with her and has been key to her staying at the pinnacle of the world rankings since July 2019.
“My father is strong, he has a strong mentality. He wanted me to be a strong person – I’m the only child and he worried too much about me. I’m the only girl and he wanted me to also win against men,” said Ko, who is in Singapore for the April 29-May 2 HSBC Women’s World Championship.
“When I was younger, I was in competition with my father a lot. So my father wanted to be stronger than me and I wanted to be stronger than him too.
“I want to be stronger than yesterday. Having the world No. 1 ranking is not easy, but it’s not tough. If I’m playing better and better, I can keep this position one, two months or even more. That is good motivation for me.”
Her family remains a crucial pillar of support for the 25-year-old and they were one of the reasons behind her successful return to the LPGA Tour last year.
After a stellar 2019 that saw her win two Majors, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the sport to a halt.
Even though the United States LPGA Tour restarted in July, Ko opted to remain in South Korea and compete on the Korean LPGA circuit, where she earned three top-10 finishes across six starts.
She returned to the USLPGA Tour in November and despite playing only four tournaments, she made the most of the opportunities she got, closing the season with her sixth LPGA Tour victory at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“I spent time in Korea with my family, dog and friends so I had good (opportunity to recharge) in Korea, so I played really good in the United States,” said Ko.
This year, she has had four top-10 finishes in five starts, with her best performance coming in last week’s Hugel-Air Premia LA Open where she finished tied third with Australia’s Hannah Green.
With a positive start to the year, Ko, who finished tied third and tied sixth at the previous two editions of the HSBC Women’s World Championship, is seeking her first win of the season.
The Korean, who also hopes to qualify for the Tokyo Games, which would be her first Olympics, said: “My game is getting better from first tournament (at Gainbridge LPGA) in Florida in February. So I hope to come to the winners’ circle soon, and I will focus on my game and fight with heart.”