It’s a double-whammy for Lydia Ko. On Thursday Ko turned 17 years old, a milestone she celebrated by playing the opening round of the LPGA Swinging Skirts Classic in the same group with Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie.
But the bigger news was that Ko, who grew up in New Zealand and received a special exemption to play the tour full-time as a 16-year-old, is the only golfer to make the 2014 “TIME 100,” TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Tiger Woods made the list in the past, but Ko’s selection came as a complete shock, even to her. “I’m so surprised and quite humbled to be included in the TIME 100,” she said.
Some wonder how any golfer could be included on a list with the Pope, president, activists and world leaders. But the magazine’s editors are quick to point out that the list does not discriminate.
“The TIME 100 is not a list of the most powerful people in the world, it’s not a list of the smartest people in the world, it’s a list of the most influential people in the world,” the editors write. “They’re scientists, they’re thinkers, they’re philosophers, they’re leaders, they’re icons, they’re artists, they’re visionaries. People who are using their ideas, their visions, their actions to transform the world and have an effect on a multitude of people.”
Annika Sorenstam wrote the piece on Ko for TIME, saying, in part: “Lydia Ko is exceptionally talented, mature beyond her years and well liked by golf fans and competitors alike. She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe.
“Her early, record-breaking success brings with it incredible pressure — and she’s doing a fantastic job handling the many responsibilities that accompany stardom. Her future is very bright.”