It’s one of the more storied ‘moments’ in New Zealand golf folklore. It was the day a six-year-old Lydia Ko and her mother, Tina, walked into Pupuke Golf Club on Auckland’s North Shore and introduced themselves to a young coach by the name of Guy Wilson.
“I’ve known Lydia since the moment she walked in the door at Pupuke. I was on the putting green at Pupuke that day, that was my club as a junior,” recalls Michael Hendry of the 2003 encounter.
He remembers it so well because Wilson was living with him and his wife Tara. “Guy flatted with my wife and I for a number of years and he was one of the groomsmen at our wedding.
“Lydia was like a little sister to me and Guy for a long time. I’m extremely proud of what she’s been able to achieve.
Hendry said it was easy to spot Ko’s talent even when she was too small to see over the counter in the Pupuke pro shop. “She was an inspiration even as a 10-year-old. You could see how good she was going to be from an extremely young age – and she was just happy working hard.
“I’ve never seen anyone on the grind having a smile on their face the way she did. And I put that down to Guy. What he achieved with Lydia was to make every single practice session relevant and enjoyable. I’ve never seen any other coach be able to instil the level of enjoyment into boring, repetitive, fatiguing practice the way Guy did. It was never a chore for her to spend the hours on the driving range.
“Personally, I think that was more important in making her the golfer she is today than the technical advice he was giving to her at the time. The fact that he made the time she spent enjoyable – she was prepared to put the time in and never got sick of it. She just loved coming to golf – just loved it.”
Wilson famously guided Ko over 10 years, taking her to the world’s No.1 amateur spot and overseeing her early success on the LPGA Tour while still an amateur. Ko parted ways with Wilson when she turned professional in 2013.
But there’s still a connection between Hendry and Ko. “It’s not like we’re texting each other or messaging each other on Facebook,” Hendry laughs, “but we’re both ambassadors for ISPS so we see each other and catch up a few times at events.”