New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, a 15 year old amateur, has re-written the record books following an historic professional win at the 2012 LPGA CN Canadian Women’s Open played at The Vancouver Golf Club, Sunday.
Ko becomes the youngest player to win in an official LPGA event eclipsing the previous mark set by Lexi Thompson at the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic. Her win is also the first amateur win in more than 40 years, since JoAnne Carner won the Burdine’s Invitational in 1969.
The top ranked amateur in the world stamped her mark in the field by leading throughout the tournament with rounds of 68-68-72-67, carding a 13 under total, 3 strokes ahead of runner up Inbee Park.
The win boasts an already impressive resume with Ko carding her first professional win at ALPG’s 2012 New South Wales Open back in January. She is the current Australian Amateur Champion, was the leading amateur at the last month’s US Women’s Open, captured the US Women’s Amateur title two weeks ago and has just defeated a field which included 48 of the top 50 ranked women on the Rolex World Rankings.
Taking a one stroke lead into the final round, Ko faced off against LPGA superstars Jiyai Shin and Stacy Lewis, both of whom were expected to mount pressure on the young amateur. A further stroke back was Park, winner of the Evian Masters three weeks ago and herself on a remarkable run which has seen her post eight consecutive top 10 results, including a win and four top 3 finishes in her past five events.
There appeared to be no nerves however, as Ko carded birdies on the 2nd and 6th holes to extend her lead to three, with no serious challenge coming from her playing partners. On the 7th hole, Ko played a solid approach shot which ran just off the edge of the green and she failed to save par. She was not distracted by this and then went on to birdie holes, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15 to stun the players and the huge gallery who were warming to the talent and endearing personality of the extremely relaxed Ko. She stood on the final tee with a 5 shot lead which was trimmed when Inbee Park, playing in the group ahead, holed out from 30 metres, to finish with a birdie for outright second place and in the process, winning the battle for the first place cheque of $300,000.
Ko played a perfect drive from the final tee and followed that with a solid adrenaline assisted second shot, from 187 yards, which ran through the back of the green into the thick rough. A conservative chip and safe two-putt bogey completed the fairytale story for Ko who stood on the green seemingly in shock before she was showered in water by a group of players who ran onto the 18th green.
“It’s great to win, and the last few holes, it got a bit nerve-wracking, but Stacy Lewis after my birdie on 15 she said, you know, you can do it, and it was really great to have another player that I look up to giving me that much support,” Ko said. “So it was really awesome.”“I was most impressed with just her demeanour,” said Lewis, the No. 2 player on the Rolex Rankings who tied for sixth at 7-under-par. “I mean you would have never known that it was the final round of an LPGA event. She played like she had been there before.”Asked is she was aware of her lead, Ko responded, “I actually purposely looked on 17 so I could see where I was positioned, and I saw there was actually like four, five shots gap, so I kind of tried to play the 18th quite relaxed, and everything went straight, but my adrenaline got to me and it went way past the green,” she said. “(But) then I won. That’s the most important part for me.”
Of the Aussies in the field Katherine Hull and Karrie Webb both finished at T26, carding a 1 under total. Sarah Jane Smith finished in T73.