New coach wants to give Ko back confidence

Lydia Ko. Photo: Getty Images
Lydia Ko. Photo: Getty Images
Lydia Ko's new coach says he had no hesitation in working with the former world number one despite the rising number of coaching changes she's had since the start of her career.

Jorge Parada, who has worked with a number of golfers on the LPGA and PGA tours, is the latest coach enlisted by the 22-year-old Kiwi to try and turn around a rough stretch of form that has seen her fall to 46th in the world rankings – a far cry from her peak when she held the number one spot for 84 weeks.

Ko confirmed yesterday that she's been working with Parada "for quite some time now".

Parada – who comes in as Ko's fifth swing coach since going professional, following David Leadbetter, Gary Gilchrist, Ted Oh and David Whelan – said he wasn't worried about the recent changes and was simply focussed on helping Ko.

"I don't think about those things," Parada said in an interview with Radio Sport's D'arcy Waldegrave. "I'm someone that truly cares about the human being that I'm working with – their future, not as golfers, but as actual humans.

"The amount of coaches and changes and non-changes to me to me is not important from the standpoint of affecting me or me being concerned about it for the simple reason that this is not about me. It is about a young woman who is an elite athlete and an elite person as well.

"When you take those two things into consideration and you truly believe that no matter what – if it's one month relationship, if it's three months, if it's five years, or if it's a lifetime, regardless of the amount of the time – the only thing I can do is give my complete best effort into allowing that person to leave the relationship one: happier, two: a better person, three: a better golfer."

Parada offered an insight into how his approach – one that encompasses more than just the technical side of the game – may differ to Ko's past coaches, especially her first and relatively more outspoken coach Leadbetter.

Leadbetter, who has long been critical of the role that Ko's parents, Gil Hong and Tiny Hon, have played in their daughter's career, urged Ko last year to "leave the nest" and take control of her own career – even calling the situation "unbelievably ignorant".

In contrast, Parada praised Ko's parents, saying it was a "pleasure" to learn from them about Ko and her life.

"Honestly to me it's an absolute pleasure whenever I'm in front of them," Parada said. "They have been nothing but great with me, both Lydia and her family.

"I loved learning from them, what they used to do when they were younger, how they played golf, where they lived, things about New Zealand, things about their culture, the respect they have for one another. It was very interesting and eye opening.

"The environment along with the athlete's DNA … those people around creating that environment have developed a golfer that I have never developed."

On the course, however, Ko's return to the top could prove to be a long journey if recent results are anything to go by. She's had a poor start to her 2020 season, failing to make the cut at the Australian Open, and hasn't had a top-10 finish in the tour since July last year.

Despite Ko's struggles, Parada was confident that she was moving in the right direction, both technically and mentally.

"I believe it is a hard thing to pinpoint," he said about the reasons for Ko's decline. "It has happened in the past to many people and it's hard to pinpoint one specific thing or two specific things. I believe her talent and her abilities are incredible and I do believe her work ethic is unbelievable.

"For me it's more about giving her confidence again. Helping her believe in herself. Allowing her to see what she saw and see what everybody else is able to see. Working on the swing, working on the technique of the golf swing, working on a little bit on the preparation, the style of practice and being as efficient as possible.

"I'm really happy with the progress that she's made with her golf swing … What we're seeing in practice sessions, how we're seeing the confidence starting to build up more and more, from that standpoint I'm quite confident. I really like the direction it's going and I really like where she's at and where she's moving towards."

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