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What does the taxpayer get from Lydia Ko?

I take my hat off to Lydia Ko.  A young women with an impressive talent and no doubt a bright career ahead.  New Zealanders can rightly take pride in her accomplishments.  But why does taxpayer funding necessary follow pride?

This morning’s Dominion Post reports:

Golfer Lydia Ko is asking for more taxpayer support since turning pro than she received when she was an amateur.

The 16-year-old prodigy can now reap big financial rewards from professional tournaments, as well as millions in management contracts and endorsement deals.

She pocketed NZ$181,000 for winning the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters tournament in Taiwan last year and so far this year has collected more than $280,000 in winnings.

As an amateur, she received $115,000 from High Performance Sport NZ in 2012 and $185,000 last year, chief executive Alex Baumann said.

New Zealand Golf's application for this year is for $208,000 to pay for her coaching, physiotherapy and mental skills training. 


Golf is one of the richest sports in the world. Why should kiwi taxpayers, most of whom earn less than Ms Ko, subsidise someone earning hundreds of thousands?

NZ Golf chief executive Dean Murphy said that, despite Ko's new professional status, the funding was still necessary, and the application was lodged while she was still an amateur.


Murphy noted it was common for professional athletes to receive taxpayer funding and he believed the opportunity to make money in a particular sport should not be a major consideration in an application. "If a [golf] player plays really well and wins a lot of tournaments, then it can be [lucrative] but the reality is even the very best players don't win all the time." Read more.

Surely the test is whether the particular person can support themselves otherwise isn't is just a bonus. Under NZ Mr Murphy's approach,  Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Scott Dixon would qualify for a taxpayer funded top-up.

We hope that Mr Murphy's comments do not represent the view of NZ Golf. Taxpayer funding should focus on fostering talent, not subsidising professionals already earning hundreds of thousands and receiving generous amounts from corporate sponsors.

What does the government get for the money?

Hiring sports people to be “ambassadors” for the country and to do various kinds of promotional work we think is fine. That’s a fee for service. But we can't see what the taxpayer gets here. The money seems to simply support a sportswomen's career - shouldn't that be her own responsibility?

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