Ko, 14, becomes youngest winner of pro event
SYDNEY — Barely a week after becoming the youngest winner of the Australian Women’s Amateur, Lydia Ko has earned an even larger title, that of youngest winner of a professional golf tour. The fourteen-year-old New Zealand won the women's New South Wales Open on Sunday by four strokes.
Ko, the world's top amateur, broke Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa's mark of 15 years, 8 months, and Australian Amy Yang's women's record of 16 years, 192 days in the Australian Ladies Masters.
The South Korean-born New Zealander shot a 3-under 69 to finish at 14 under for the tournament, four strokes clear of Becky Morgan of Wales. Ko came close to winning the tournament last year, but missing a putt on the last hole to lose by a stroke.
Britain's Laura Davies closed with a 71 and a 54-hole total of 216, 14 strokes behind.
“To be part of history is like a miracle,” Ko said. “It's not something you can have by clicking your fingers.”
Ko finished second at the Australian Women’s Stoke Play Championship on Jan. 18, which served as a qualifier for the Amateur the following week. She defeated Breanna Elliott, 4 and 3, in the final match to win the event for the first time. She won Stroke Play in 2011 and was runner-up in the Amateur.
It’s been nearly six months since Lydia Ko swept into the U.S. Women’s Amateur and earned stroke-play medalist honors. It was just her third trip stateside to play golf, and the journey lasted until the second of match play, when Ko fell to Stephanie Kono. In between tongue in cheek comments to assembled media that week, Ko expressed plans to play collegiate golf, hopefully at Stanford.
Ko, a Grade 11 student at North Harbour near Auckland, plans to play about 30 tournaments this year, including professional events over the next two weeks at the Australian Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast and the LPGA's Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.
“I'll play in mostly amateur tournaments after that, and my schedule looks pretty busy for the next several months,” Ko said.
Ko, who says her role models are American golfers Michelle Wie and Alexis Thompson, moved to Australia with her family from Seoul in 2003.
“My sister (Sura) was attending school in Canada, and we were going to move there, but when I started playing golf regularly, we decided New Zealand would be the best place to come because of the weather,” she said.
– The Associated Press contributed