Ko becoming THE story at Canadian Open

Lydia Ko of New Zealand walks past the score board while putting on the 18th green during the...

Lydia Ko of New Zealand walks past the score board while putting on the 18th green during the second round of the LPGA Canadian Women's Open golf tournament in Coquitlam, British Columbia August 24, 2012. (Andy Clark/REUTERS)

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency<

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

COQUITLAM, B.C. - Cinderella is at the ball.

And she's having a ball, to boot.

At the age of 15, Lydia Ko has already been awarded royal status, though. Last month, Golf Channel broadcaster Kay Cockerill dubbed her a short-game queen.

But her time may be coming soon as an LPGA monarch -- perhaps as early as Sunday, given what she's accomplishing at the Vancouver Golf Club.

What was a minor storyline coming into the week -- because of her age -- has fast become a major plotline heading into the final two rounds of the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open.

With an 8-under 136 through 36 holes, Ko is putting on a show and raising the eyebrows of the LPGA stars she idolizes, including those who are madly trying to keep pace with her this week.

"We're getting beaten by a kid," said 2009 Canadian champ Suzann Pettersen, who is in contention heading into the weekend at 4-under 140. "I know she's good.

"But she's half my age -- that's not good."

Certainly, though, it's great for business around the 6,681-yard track.

After Thursday's late-evening, 4-under round that put her in contention, Ko came off the course to be saluted by only a handful of fans and a couple of media members.

During Friday's second round, the gallery grew throughout, as the South Korean-born, New Zealand-raised teen held par for 11 holes before turning it on to record three straight birdies at the par-3 12th hole, the par-5 13th and the par-4 14th and adding another at the par-4 17th.

"I think I really like the back nine," said Ko, who put up four birds on the front nine Thursday as well. "And hopefully, it likes me, too."

Funny enough, the course wasn't supposed to like her this much.

Her coach back in New Zealand, Guy Wilson, tried to temper expectations of playing in her third LPGA event, despite recent success winning the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur and a European event in Australia.

"Lydia did have some quite lofty goals (going into the Canadian Women's Open), and I had to knock her back a peg, because she forgot that it's a completely different field," Wilson told NZ City News earlier this week. "Because of that, I wanted to make sure that her goals were simply to make the cut to start off with."

She's made the cut alright.

And coupled with the previous success, it's enough that the top-ranked amateur in the world is quickly becoming a recognizable name.

At this rate, think Michelle Wie, who played in her first LPGA event at age 12.

Ko has even got a Wie-esque approach to life, with plans to attend Stanford University in the future.

"I like Michelle Wie because she went to Stanford, and I want to go to Stanford," Ko said. "But then I'm noticing, as the years go by, Stanford is such an academic school "¦ and because there is so much homework, you can't have a lot of time to practise golf.

"To be honest, I haven't done much (homework here) -- especially, like, two weeks ago when I was playing 34 holes, 35 holes and a full 18 holes "¦ me doing extra work will probably kill me. But I've got 99% on my last exams, so that's not too bad."

A smart cookie? It would seem so with Ko.

But make no mistake, there are nerves to go with her skill set.

"After 15 (Friday), I looked at the leaderboard and saw my name at the top and got really nervous," Ko said. "Yeah, suddenly people with cameras were coming, and I was like, 'Are they actually going to take footage of me?' And I was like, 'Oh, man!'"

Perhaps there's a crack in the young armour, after all.

"Maybe that's a good sign," said Pettersen with a smile. "The problem is she's too young to understand where she's at."

"I was a car-hop at Sonic when I was 15," added longtime tour veteran Angela Stanford, herself just three shots back of Ko. "That's what I was doing."

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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