Korea wins team title, Ko is medalist at World Amateur

Lydia Ko (file photo)

ANTALYA, Turkey – The final round of the World Amateur Team Championship confirmed two things: Lydia Ko is without doubt the undisputed world’s No. 1 amateur, and the strength of Korean golf shows no sign of abating.

The Republic of Korea won the team championship to become the first team to successfully defend the title since the United States in 1988 and 1990. Ko returned a closing 4-under 68 for a 72-hole total of 274. She won the individual crown by six shots over Finland’s Krista Bakker and Camilla Hedberg of Spain.

Both wins were fairly comfortable, and expected.

The Korean trio of Hyo-Joo Kim, Kyu-Jung Baek and Min-Sun Kim combined for a 13-under total of 563 to win by three shots over Germany. Finland and Australia tied for third place on 567, four shots behind. Ko’s New Zealand team finished T-5 alongside Spain. Canada placed seventh on 569, while the USA was a further shot back in eighth.

Korea took a five-shot lead into the final round and never really looked threatened despite splendid 7-under finishes from Germany and Finland. Baek led the line with a 2-under 70, Hyo-Joo Kim posted a level-par 72, while Min-Sun Kim had a 74.

“I’m very, very proud of my team,” said Korean captain Hyung-Mo Kang. “The girls have worked very, very hard this week. We came here to win back the cup and we’ve done that. It’s a proud moment for our country.”

New Zealand captain Libby Steele praised the Korean effort. “They are just great golfers,” Steele said. “We play them every year in the Queen Sirikit Cup and they seem to bring new players every year, so this is no surprise.”

For Korea it might be yet another signal of the country’s growing strength. For Ko it’s a chance to sign off a fantastic season. The New Zealander has exceeded all expectations this year.

“My goals at the start of the year were to do well in the U.S. Amateur Championship and this tournament,” Ko said. With victories in both, the 15 year-old did just a bit better than that.

Among her other accolades this year are two professional victories, the New South Wales Open and Canadian Women’s Open. She also picked up the top amateur prizes in both the U.S. Women’s Open and Women’s British Open. No wonder she is looking forward to some time off.

“This is my last big tournament of the year,” she said. “I have exams in couple of weeks so I’m going to go home and get ready for them. It’s been a really good year but I’m looking forward to going home.”

Ko was hoping to say farewell to Turkey with one less stroke than she posted in her final round. “My goal today was to shoot 5 under. I didn’t quite manage it but I’m very happy.”

The precocious teenager still wants to play college golf at some point in the future. Whether that happens or not is debatable given the way she has handled herself on the biggest stages this year. There will be pressure on her to turn pro rather than play college golf.

Rest assured, the elite of women’s professional golf will be happy to see her stay in the amateur ranks as long as possible. That same elite should take note of yet another Korean amateur success.

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