Jin Young Ko scared of Poppie’s Pond, but not afraid to take final leap on Sunday
RANCHO MIRAGE – Jin Young Ko faked a smile and jumped into the water beside the 18th green at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club. The smile she wore, hid the fear she felt inside. She wasn’t nervous in trying to win her first major in 2019, but she was scared about making the winner’s leap, because she didn’t know how to swim.
Each year, the winner of the Chevron Championship jumps into Poppie’s Pond, a tradition that began with Amy Alcott in 1983.
And as the tradition has evolved, so has the pond, which was upgraded from its original state as a murky, scum-covered body of water into a glorified swimming pool, complete with a concrete bottom and chlorine.
“It was first time jumping in the swimming pool in my life, so I scared a little bit, but I had to,” Ko said Tuesday about her leap three years ago. “I tried to keep smile on my face, smiling face, and jumping in Poppie’s Pond. It was fun, but was a little scared.”
Ko could easily make the jump again come Sunday. She’s playing some of the best golf of her career.
Ko has won in six of her last 11 starts on the LPGA Tour, with her most recent victory coming in her season debut at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in February. She also arrives at Mission Hills during a record sub-par streak that dates to last year. She begins the Chevron having carded 33 consecutive rounds under par. Her streak of 16 sub-70 rounds came to an end at last week’s JTBC Classic, where she tied for fourth.
Three years ago, when Ko plastered a smile on her face and hope for the best in her victory jump, was just the beginning to her success. She won another major that year, the Amundi Evian Championship, and twice more on tour to claim Rolex Player of the year, the money title and the Vare Trophy.
But Ko says that wasn’t here best. Her best is still to come.
What exactly ‘her best’ looks like, Ko isn’t quite sure. She says she has never before experienced it. But when pressed on what it might look like, she outlined a specific criteria – if she can win the Chevron Championship by five strokes, or more, that would be her very best. When asked why five is the magic number by which she’d judge her best golf, she said with a laugh, “because it’s a big number.” Ko agreed to accepting a four-stroke win. Or, perhaps, even just a victory.
“Always win is good,” said Ko. With a smile.