Lydia Ko becomes youngest LPGA winner

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 09:45 27/08/2012
Golf Canada

Kiwi Lydia Ko wins the Canadian Open to become the youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour.

Lydia Ko
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TEEN TRIUMPH: Lydia Ko during her Canadian Open win.

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Lydia Ko, the most talented teen in New Zealand sport, has again stunned the golfing world.

The brilliant 15-year-old amateur from Auckland's North Shore has blown away the field to win the Canadian Open this morning (NZT), becoming the youngest player, and the first Kiwi, to taste victory on the LPGA Tour, widely regarded as the sport's top professional tour.

The world's top-ranked amateur took a one-shot lead into today's final round at the Vancouver Golf Club but again showed maturity and composure well beyond her years, running away with a three-shot victory over a field which included most of the sport's top professionals.

''It means a lot to me, it's a professional event and I just came to make the cut and play my best,'' Ko told reporters.

''But to win and get the trophy is amazing. It's been a great couple of weeks.''

Under immense pressure, Ko carded the joint low round-of-the-day with a sizzling five-under par 67, finishing at 13-under 275 for the tournament, three strokes ahead of second-placed Inbee Park of South Korea, who finished at 10-under.

Na Yeon Choi of South Korea, who recently won the US Women's Open, and American world No 2 Stacy Lewis were among those tied for third at eight-under. In fact, 19 of the world's top 20 ranked professionals were in the field this week but none could get close to Ko.

''I didn't have to do anything,'' club member Brian Alexander, who was Ko's caddie for the week, told reporters after her final round.

''I just confirmed the odd time and stood back in awe. It was a remarkable performance.''

The New Zealander turned in one-under 35, after two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, to be in a three-way share of the lead, but flicked on the afterburners at the beginning of the inward nine with four successive birdies from the 10th hole - two of them on par-fives - to open up a four-shot lead.

She then nailed another birdie at the par-four 15th to put an exclamation mark on a wonderful week, probably the best of her career despite a host of other supreme achievements, and a bogey at the last was inconsequential.

The only downer for Ko is that, as an amateur, she is not allowed to accept the winner's cheque of $US300,000. That will go to Park.

The Canadian Open is the third most lucrative women's tournament in the world, behind the US Open and Evian Masters in France, with a total purse of $US 2 million.

But Ko need not worry about money. New Zealand Golf and her coach, Guy Wilson, are doing their best to keep the finances rolling in for now but when she turns pro, which is expected to be at least two or three years away, she will be set for life. Sponsors and management companies will be fighting each other off to secure her signature.

 It was an incredible display on the back nine from the Pinehurst School pupil, who was born in South Korea and joined her first golf club - Pupuke on the North Shore - at age 7.

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She had already shown she had the temperament to handle pressure on several occasions.

 In January, Ko made international headlines when she won the New South Wales Open in Australia at 14 to become the youngest player of either gender to win a professional tour event.

Just two weeks ago she became the first New Zealand player to win the US Amateur championship, and the second youngest in history.

 In Vancouver, she surpassed the feats of her American heroine Lexi Thompson, who was the youngest LPGA Tour winner after she won the Navistar Classic last September aged 16. Ko also became only the fifth amateur to win on the LPGA Tour, and the first since JoAnne Carner in the 1969 Burdine's Invitational.

It was just her 10th professional event and third tournament on the LPGA Tour after the Australian Open and US Open, where she finished as the top amateur.

Ko has already secured the Mark McCormack Medal for the world's top amateur for a second successive year, following her victory at the US Amateur.

She'll play in the British Open next month.

Youngest golfers to win an LPGA event:

Lydia Ko, 2012 Canadian Women's Open (72-hole event) at 15 years, 4 months, 2 days.

Lexi Thompson, 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic (72-hole event) at 16 years, 8 months, 8 days.

Marlene Hagge, 1952 Sarasota Open (18-hole event) at 18 years, 14 days.

Marlene Hagge, 1952 Bakersfield Open (18-hole event) at 18 years, 2 months, 15 days.

Paula Creamer, 2005 Sybase Classic presented by Lincoln Mercury (72-hole event) at 18 years, 9 month, 17 days.

Morgan Pressel, 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship (72-hole event) at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days.

Paula Creamer, 2005 Evian Masters (72-hole event), 18 years, 11 months, 18 days.

Amy Alcott, 1975 Orange Blossom Classic (54-hole event) at 19 years, 1 day.

- The Press

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