World No.1 Lydia Ko will face her toughest test in her young golf career when she makes her major debut at the US Open on the notoriously tough Blackwolf Run Golf Club in Wisconsin.
The 15-year-old record breaking machine is pretty accustomed to creating history but admitted she is heading into the unknown as she becomes the second New Zealand amateur to contest the US Open Championship after Olivia Hartley in the 1990s.
“To play the US Open as an amateur that’s pretty amazing,” said the Gulf Harbour golfer, who became the youngest winner ever of a professional event (both men and women) when she claimed the NSW Open.
“You know some people play as a professional their whole lives and they’re unable to play the US Open so it’s a big honour to be playing it.”
The youngest ever Australian Amateur champion will become only the third New Zealand golfer to play the US Open after Lynnette Brooky (six times), who had a best finish of 12thin 2002, and Susan Farron (1995).
Ko earns her place in the US Open field from July 5 – 8 by winning the Mark H McCormack Medal for being regarded as the game’s outstanding amateur in 2011.
She explained how she qualified in her typical understated way: “so I think they give an exemption for the best new girl to be able to play in the US Open.”
“The best new girl” expects to be stretched to her limit when she tees it up on the 6359m course. She has been practicing from the black tees at her new home course Gulf Harbour the past couple of months where she has broken par once.
“I definitely saw the length of Blackwolf which is a bit longer than the distance that I would play off the back tees here so I’ve be practising off the blue tees.”
Ko has been to America a few times with her best performance last year when she was the medallist in qualifying for the US Amateur. She believed that experience will give her some confidence on the big stage.
“I’ve only been to the States like three or four times, and they all help. Playing the US amateur, that will basically build up for the US Open this year, and I am also playing the US Amateur this year again so that’s good.”
In its 65 year history an amateur golfer has only won the US Open once when Frenchwoman Catherine Lacoste claimed the title back in 1967 at The Homestead.
Ko heads into the event with realistic expectations knowing that she’ll be competing with the world’s best golfers the likes of World No.1 Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato and 2010 champion Paula Creamer.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get leading amateur. That will be pretty good. For the Australian Open I was leading amateur and that was an LPGA event but I guess the US Open’s a whole different level.
“And you know, just playing my best, you don’t get that many opportunities to play the USOpen itself so I want to make the most of it.”
Ko, as the World No.1 amateur at such a young age, with all her record breaking feats, is sure to attract a lot of international interest when she makes her major debut.
She will not be the youngest in history to play the US Open however. That record is held by one of her heroines American Lexi Thompson who was only 12-years-old when she qualified in 2007.
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