Legendary golf instructor David Leadbetter said Lydia Ko’s parents need to let her find her own way if the 22-year-old golf star is going to regain her form.
“Her parents have a lot to answer for — a case of unbelievable ignorance,” Leadbetter told New Zealand Radio, per Reuters. “They tell her when to go to bed, what to eat, what to wear, when to practice and what to practice. And they expect her to win every tournament. They need to let her go, let her fly, let her leave the nest so to speak and find her own way. If she can do that, we could see Lydia back.”
Leadbetter taught Ko for more than three years, which ended in December 2016. She claimed 12 of her 15 LPGA victories during their time together, including both of her majors. Ko reached World No. 1 at age 17 but is now ranked 24th. She’s won once since her split with Leadbetter, which came at the Mediheal Championship in April 2018. She hasn’t won since.
Leadbetter has been just one of the changes Ko’s made over the years. She’s also went through a couple of different instructors and several caddies.
“It really is a very sad situation to observe,” Leadbetter said. “The problem is when you start changing everything. As many changes as she’s made, not only coaching, caddies and equipment, and sports psychologists and trainers, she’s also changed her body type now. Who knows what’s going on inside her head right now.”
This isn’t the first time Leadbetter has criticized the role Ko’s parents have played in her career, but Ko told ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg last year that she trusts her parents. “In the end, if I’m making any decision, whether I’m going to shop or change caddies or change coaches, I’m always going to talk to my parents about it,” Ko said. “No matter what, I’m going to ask them.”
Ko’s best finish this season has been a T6 at the Dow Great Lakes Invitational. She missed the cut in her last two starts, both of which were majors.
“My advice would be look to take a break right now,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t need to play for the rest of the year. Just get her head together, relax, get away from the game and rethink this whole thing.”