ANTALYA, Turkey – Normally five- and two-shot leads would be causes for celebration. It’s just the opposite after the third round of the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
The Republic of Korea holds a five-shot advantage over New Zealand and a six-shot edge over third-place Canada and Australia, with the U.S. and Spain in joint fifth, seven shots back. Meanwhile, World No. 1 Lydia Ko leads the individual competition by two shots over U.S. Curtis Cup player Lisa McCloskey.
The advantage should be more in both cases.
The Korean trio of Hyo Joo Kim, Kyu-Jung Baek and Min Sun Kim sit at 11-under 206 with a round to play. However, Korean captain Hyung-Mo Kang wasn’t a happy man when his team came off the golf course.
“I hope they will do better tomorrow than that,” Kang said of his team’s third-round performance. “Today was not that satisfactory. All the girls missed a lot of putts out there.”
Korea won the World Amateur Team Championship two years ago in Buenos Aires, and should be a safe bet to become the first team to lift the Espirito Santo Trophy for the second consecutive time since the U.S. won back to back titles in this biennial event in 1988 and 1990. However, Kang isn’t preparing his victory speech just yet.
“In this team competition five shots isn’t safe. Even ten shots isn’t safe. That’s what I’ll tell the girls.”
Ko can help New Zealand overcome Korea if she can get her putter working. The 15-year-old recorded a 5-under 67 to match McCloskey for low round of the day. However, Ko was not satisfied when she came off the golf course.
“It was a bit frustrating because I hit all 18 greens today and just couldn’t hole putts,” she said. “I didn’t make my first birdie until the ninth hole, so it was just a question of trying to stay patient out there.”
Ko knows all about staying patient in big events. She has won two professional tournaments this year: the New South Wales Open at the start of the year and the Canadian Women’s Open on the LPGA tour. She also picked up the top amateur prizes in the U.S. Women’s Open and Women’s British Open.
The precocious teenager might be on the short side, but she’s head and shoulders above the rest of the field. She has been a machine with her irons. Ko hit 15 greens in the first round, 17 in the second and then was perfect in the third.
“My iron play is obviously very good,” Ko said, “but it’s just been a bit frustrating not taking advantage of it.”
A record 53 teams are participating in this year’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, one more than competed two years ago in Argentina. Indeed, seven nations are taking part for the first time.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, India, Poland, Serbia, Tunisia and Ukraine are all teeing it up for the first time. And if the Korean captain and Ko want to know real frustration, then perhaps a look at the scores of the Ukrainian trio would ease their pain.
Ukraine sits comfortably last of the 53 countries on a total of 594, 162 over par, 170 strokes behind Korea. Yet they deserve a few accolades. Fair play to the trio of Yulia Malimon, Mariia Pedenko and Valeriia Sapronova for setting a new golfing nation on a journey that will hopefully help grow the game in the eastern European nation.
The Ukrainian threesome might be at the bottom of the leaderboard, but they had much to celebrate in the third round. Malimon has returned scores of 103, 103 and 105 to be last at 95-over 311. However, she made history in her third-round performance, becoming the first Ukrainian woman to make a par in the World Amateur Team Championship, a feat she recorded at the sixth hole of the third round.
So it isn’t all frustration on the Turkish coastline.