By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Lydia Ko has undergone some major changes in the off-season in her quest to remain at the top of the world rankings and the New Zealander is also hoping that the golf venue for the next Olympics makes changes to its policy of barring female members.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged the private Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama prefecture to allow women full membership or the 2020 Tokyo Games organizers will be asked to find a new venue.
Ko, who won a silver medal at the Rio Games last year, said the sport is gradually improving in terms of equality and that the standard of women's play on the major tours would only help speed up that process.
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"I think especially in past generations, golf was to be a men's game. And I think especially on the LPGA, you see the amount of talent level in the women's game is immense," the 19-year-old told reporters on Wednesday ahead of this week's HSBC Women's Champions event at the New Tanjong Course in Singapore.
"Courses that in the past have been only men-only member ones have slowly changed, and you can see that not only in golf, but in everything that happens around us," added the two-time major winner .
"Golf in Japan is pretty big. I played a JLPGA event before and obviously the TOTO LPGA Classic last year. The fans we had were incredible.
"The support and how popular women's golf is in Japan, I think maybe around the time of the Olympics or hopefully in the future, they will be able to change that rule," she added.
"When I go to Japan, I realize how popular golf, especially women's golf is. I think slowly those things hopefully will change in the future."
Ko won five events in 2016, including her second major at the ANA Inspiration, but rather than rest on her laurels, she opted to change her coach, caddie and clubs and is, so far, delighted with her new tools of trade, having finished eighth at last week's Honda LPGA Thailand event.
"Obviously changes are really big and when you like the clubs that you're trying, it's always nice I think to change it up a little bit," she said of her new PXG clubs after switching from Calloway.
"It gives your mind some, I guess, breath of fresh air, and I just heard so many great things about it and that's why I wanted to try and that's what I have experienced, too."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)