Top 10 female amateurs: No. 1 Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko is doused with water by Stacy Lewis, Jiyai Shin in celebration of her three-shot victory at the Canadian Women's Open.

The amateur season roared in with talk of the Curtis Cup in Scotland, and died down with the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey, which made patriotism a big part of 2012. But in terms of women’s amateur golf, 2012 also was the year of the Kiwi (read: Lydia Ko) and the last summer of the Jutanugarn sisters.

Golfweek will spend 10 days counting down the top amateur players of the past year. Who will be No. 1? Who else will make the list? Check back each day.

Find the entire series here.

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No. 1: Lydia Ko

R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking: 1

2012 in review: Won LPGA Canadian Women’s Open; wom U.S. Women’s Amateur; won Australian Women’s Amateur; won New South Wales Open; made cut/low amateur at U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open; individual medalist, Women’s World Amateur Team Championship

Lydia Ko isn’t just the best amateur story of 2012, she’s the best story in women’s golf from the past year. The 15-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand played two seasons in 2012 – starting the year with summer Down Under before hitting the warm-weather season in North America.

Ko has won nearly everything there is to win in New Zealand, but her shining moment came at the New South Wales Open. It was her first professional victory, and at just 14 years old, she replaced Ryo Ishikawa as the youngest winner of a pro event to date. Barely 10 days prior, Ko had won the Australian Women’s Amateur.

By the time Ko arrived in the United States for her summer schedule, she was firmly atop the World Amateur Rankings. For that, she won the Mark H. McCormack medal, an honor given to the player who holds the top spot in those rankings, for the second consecutive year. Ko also secured a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open, and was the low amateur at both events.

Ko’s run at the U.S. Junior ended prematurely, at the hands of Alison Lee. Weeks later, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, what she called the best amateur event in the world. Ko, one figures, has some perspective for that statement, having played many amateurs around the world.

Then came the crowning achievement: the LPGA victory that made her the youngest winner on that tour. She replaced Lexi Thompson in that category.

Ko is an unassuming presence, whose intriguing New Zealand accent and idioms mean a conversation with her is never dull. The biggest question for Ko in 2013 and beyond is what path her career will take. She’s expressed a desire in attending Stanford, but two professional wins in the past six months suggest she’d also be ready for a professional career.

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