Lydia Ko exceeds even her own expectations

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013
Lydia Ko
Getty
WINNER: Lydia Ko is the NZ Women's Open champion.

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Lydia Ko thought her goals for this week's New Zealand Women's Golf Open were so lofty, she kept them to herself for fear of under-delivering.

She dodged the topic pre-tournament, then exceeded the expectations anyway.

The 15-year-old amateur, who yesterday beat 143 other golfers, most of them professional, to win at Clearwater by a single shot, had worked out a "top three" goal with mother Tina.

"[I thought] that's pretty good in a professional tournament that's a pretty good job especially this one with 30-something LPGA players. This was a really good field and the LET [Ladies European Tour] players are great as well."

Ko's win is her third in a professional tournament after picking up the New South Wales and Canadian Open titles last year.

Ko started yesterday's third and final round tied for the lead and any nerves were soon eliminated with a birdie three at the first.

She turned at two-under and ahead of her playing partners, but needed to keep scoring low as Australian Stacey Keating and American Amelia Lewis caught her.

Lewis got hot in the middle of her round picking up six shots in six holes including an eagle on the par five 10th.

Playing in the group in front of Ko, Lewis piled on the pressure, but let slip a golden opportunity to at least force a playoff.

She three putted the final hole in front of the pro-Ko crowd meaning the home-town hero needed only make a four at the last to win.

After sinking putts of a metre and a half on the 16th and 17th for pars, Ko then left herself about the same nerve-racking distance at the last.

But, to the cheers of the 1500-strong crowd, she made no mistake.

"There were lots of thoughts going through my head [on the back nine]. I made a good birdie on 15 and I said ‘let's just make par down the last stretch', but it wasn't easy."

Lewis finished second and collected the NZ$47,943.67 prizemoney.

Ko was her usual brilliant self yesterday.

A duffed chip that led to her solitary bogey aside, she was at her accurate, almost robotic self. Off the tee she was straight and with her irons she was straighter.

"I think I putted better today than the first day. There weren't many huge mistakes."

Even the poor chip cost her just one shot and she bounced back immediately.

After flying through the green on the par-four third, Ko's tricky recovery never got up the hill and rolled straight back to her. Her next was hit to about 30cm away then she made an impressive two on the par three next.

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Though not as big as the Canadian Open - the unofficial fifth women's major - Ko's win this week is a major boost for the teenager.

Coach Guy Wilson is spending less tournament time with his young charge and she was left to make all of her own decisions as she prepares for her inevitable move to the pro ranks.

And the expectation and pressure seem to be handled as well with the New Zealand Open field featuring 34 LPGA players, top European players and three women's major winners.

The relief at ending a draining week on a high was clearly evident as Ko burst into tears.

"I didn't cry at the Canadian Open so I don't know why I cried here. I guess it meant more. It is our national open so to win means a lot.

"I am not the person who shows expression or feeling but I guess the tears showed what this means to me."

- The Press

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