Lydia Ko's three stroke victory at the Canadian Open this morning should be considered one of the great achievements in New Zealand women's sport, according to the CEO of New Zealand Golf.
In winning the tournament, 15-year-old Ko became the youngest ever winner of a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) event and the first New Zealand woman to taste victory on the top female golf tour.
Dean Murphy, New Zealand Golf's CEO, said it was undoubtedly the greatest achievement ever by a New Zealand female golfer and it was a significant moment both in Ko's life and in the annals of New Zealand women's sport.
"She's playing the very, very best players in the world and at 15 she becomes the youngest ever winner of a tournament on that tour, so it's enormously significant.
"Every time she plays she seems to rewrite history but this is right up there. This will be her most stunning achievement to date by a long, long way."
The win comes hot on the heels of Ko's success in the US Amateur, and in January the teen became the youngest ever winner of a professional event when she won the New South Wales Open at 14.
As an amateur, Ko is not able to collect the whopping winners purse of US$300,000, (around NZ$370,000), but Murphy said she should be in line for another prestigious prize back home.
"I'm slightly biased working with golf but this is right up there with the most stunning achievements of the year and certainly the Young Emerging Talent award at the Halbergs - Lydia will be very hard to beat.
"I think she should be well at home with all the Olympic gold medallists with her achievement and what she's done. Considering the amount of people that play golf in the world, the quality of the tournament she's won, that achievement is just quite stunning."
The Canadian Open is considered one of the premier LPGA tournaments, with its $2million prize purse, one of the largest on the tour.
Despite all Ko's success in the past 12 months, Murphy said a win on the LPGA Tour far exceeded any expectations.
"A lot of people have been saying she's been trending this way for a wee while but I think success, particularly on the LPGA Tour at this young an age, is very unexpected.
"Her last 12 months has been incredible, she's performing at a really high level. Last week we sat down and said 'Lydia, the way she's going and the kind of person she is, she'll probably win this thing', and so she has."
Mike Duncan, the director of golf at Ko's Gulf Harbour club, said it was "difficult to comprehend" the significance of the young Aucklander's achievement, but he wouldn't be surprised if there was another Lydia Ko waiting in the wings.
"It's amazing just watching her around the club, what an influence she has on all the juniors in particular. She will go and practice and as soon as she's gone they'll go and duplicate it and follow her around.
"As far as creating a really positive environment for our juniors to practice and play and improve, she's like a little icon. It's quite funny really, she's like the Pied Piper."
Both Murphy and Duncan said there would be plans put in place for a celebration when Ko returns to New Zealand, although that is not likely to be until around the start of October.
Ko will now head to the UK to play the British Open - the last women's major of the year - at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in mid-September before leading the New Zealand team at the World Amateur Team Championships in Turkey at the end of September.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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