Preparing ... Lydia Ko at Oatlands on Thursday. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
WHEN you win the Canadian Open as a 15-year-old, a parking spot with your name printed on a sign isn't meant to excite you.
But for golfing sensation Lydia Ko, it represented just how far she's come since the last time she touched down in Australia for the NSW Open.
As she pulled into Oatlands Golf Club on Thursday - with her mother behind the wheel - the defending champion admitted to feeling the pressure upon arrival.
"Especially after they gave me a parking spot and everything," the baby-faced Kiwi said. "I start thinking 'Oh my God, I should play well'."
With those words you get an insight into the girl that is still not old enough to obtain a driver's licence, let alone drink to her victories. A schoolgirl who still has ambitions to go to college and has time to worry about whether she'll get the marks to turn her dream into a reality.
Ko created history at last year's NSW Open when she became the youngest winner of a professional tournament, doing so as a 14-year-old to surpass Japan's Ryo Ishikawa's feats at the age of 15 and eight months.
She then went on to win the US Amateur Championship, claim the leading amateur honour at the US and British opens before capping off an incredible breakthrough year with a triumph at the Canadian Open on the LPGA Tour.
As an amateur golfer, Ko was ineligible to collect any prizemoney from her several victories - not that she needs any reminding.
"I think I was probably meant to be the richest sportswoman in New Zealand," she said jokingly. "That would've been great to have that money. Especially after the NSW Open - I knew I wasn't going to get any money so I didn't really have an interest or know how much it was … until the media said 'you could've got $300,000 at the Canadian Open'. That could've been a nice house. Now it doesn't really matter because I know it's not really going to happen."
While there's no doubt she's got the ability to turn professional, Ko is reluctant to jump into the big smoke too soon.
She's hell-bent on waiting until she's developed the confidence to compete with golf's best.
"I want to turn pro when I think I'm ready and when my coaching staff all think I'm ready," she said.
"There's no point me going there when I don't think I'm ready because I won't be that confident. I think there'll be a point in time where I think 'maybe this is the right time'.
"That doesn't mean I'm going to wait many, many years. The time will come suddenly without me noticing."
The South Korean-born golfer is hoping for a top-five finish at the NSW Open, which starts on Friday at Oatlands.
She admitted to feeling the brunt of expectation on the back of her golden 2012 season, especially back in New Zealand. "Back at home when I shoot even-par or a couple over in the practice rounds, they are like 'Oh my God, Lydia Ko hit over par' and that kind of stuff," Ko said.
"I know I'm not going to shoot under par every round anyway. I think it's just that pressure and expectation that is coming to me without me knowing. It's subconscious."