David Leadbetter Says Lydia Ko's Parents Guilty of "Unbelievable Ignorance"
Lydia Ko is marred in a significant slump that has seen the 15-time LPGA Tour winner and two-time major champion go more than a year without a victory. The same player who summitted the world rankings as a 17-year-old—the youngest player ever, male or female, to reach the top spot—has dropped all the way to No. 24 in the world, just as she should be entering her prime at 22.
Her former swing coach, legendary instructor David Leadbetter, thinks she should take a break to clear her head...and that her struggles are largely due to overbearing parents who shoulder plenty of blame.
"My advice would be look to take a break right now,” Leadbetter told New Zealand Radio, per Reuters. “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.”
Leadbetter said it's been difficult to watch—a "very sad situation," in his own words—as Ko has reconfigured virtually every aspect of her game, from her swing coach to her caddie to her clubs. And he thinks it's not all her decision.
"Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance,” Leadbetter said. “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 worked with Ko from November 2013 through December 2016, a period during which she won 12 LPGA events and both of her majors. Ko has won just once since, at the Mediheal Championship in April 2018.
This is not the first time that Leadbetter has been public about his disagreement with Ko's parents. In April, in response to an article about Ko's struggles that ran on ESPN.com, Leadbetter took issue with Ko's father deciding that she needed to change her swing, calling him a "non-accomplished golfer" in a blog post called "The Grass Isn't Always Greener."