World No.1 Lydia Ko is the first New Zealand golfer to win the US Women’s Amateur Championship after she defeated American Jaye Marie Green in the 36 hole final today at The Country Club in Ohio.
The 15-year-old Ko from the Gulf Harbour Country Club took a 1-up lead to the lunch break after a tight battle in the morning. Then, with the aid of one shot she had never used in competition, took a 4-up lead after 26 holes and held on to win. Heading down the 17thwith a 2up advantage, a par was good enough for her to seal the 3 and 1 win.
The teen superstar was humbled to have her name on the trophy that has 112 years of history.
“It means a lot,” said Ko who admitted her mind was blank on the 35thhole as she looked to close out the match.
“I haven't won a tournament in the States before, so it's good. I think I've won one tournament in Australia like internationally. It's pretty amazing, and this tournament is classified as the top amateur event for me, so it means a lot.
“I've played such good golf, and it was hard coming up and it wasn't easy in any matches or any shots. It means a lot. I think hopefully it will mean a lot to New Zealand because I'm the next winner of the U.S. Amateur after Danny Lee. “
She follows in the footsteps of fellow Korean born Kiwi Lee who in 2008 was the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship, aged 18 years and one month. He was six months younger than Tiger Woods when he won in 1994. That record was broken the following year by 17-year-old An Byeong-hun.
The 21-year-old Lee, who is the only Kiwi playing on the PGA Tour, was following Ko’s progress.
“Lydia Ko is playing so well!” he said on Facebook ahead of the final. “I hope she wins US Amateur tomorrow.” And soon after she won he posted: “Go Lydia!”
At 15 years, three months and 18 days, Ko is the second-youngest champion in Women's Amateur history. The record is held by Kimberly Kim, who was 14 years, 11 months and 21 days of age when she won the 2006 Women's Amateur.
Back in March Ko, aged only 14, became the youngest winner in professional golf history when she won the NSW Open. She broke Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa’s mark of winning at 15 years, 8 months, and Australian Amy Yang’s women’s record of 16 years, 192 days in the Australian Ladies Masters.
But she believed that her win of the US Amateur trumped that achievement.
“Winning a professional event is amazing. But to me as an amateur, this tournament was much more meaningful.
“I was talking with my mental coach before we came over to the stage, and he said what do you think your biggest tournament is and meaningful tournament? And I said probably the U.S. Amateur. It's more meaningful than the U.S. Open for me at this stage.
“It's good to win it, and my mum before told me if you win I'll get you to meet my favorite Korean movie star [Ji Sub So] the next day. And I was like, oh, yeah. So after my round finishes, it was like, okay, I'm going to meet him. So I think that's the most happiest I am for now.”
Ko’s win caps off a great summer in the States in 2012 where she has won a medal in all three USGA events she has played. It backs up her medal for being low amateur in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open and reaching the semi-final round of the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
A turning point in her US Amateur win came late in the match. At the 27th,a par-3 hole, Green hit her tee shot to within six feet of the hole while Ko’s ball landed in a greenside bunker.
The Kiwi faced a difficult 20-yard shot. She had a downhill lie on damp sand and would have to carry the high lip of the bunker. She had only 12 feet of green to work with.
“I told my dad, if Lydia got that up and down, I would be so impressed,” Green said.
As Ko surveyed the shot, her mother, Tina, said, “Try that flop bunker shot that you practice for fun. Be aggressive. Pretend it’s a practice shot.”
Ko hit her ball out in a spray of sand. It rolled over the edge of the hole. From deep in the bunker, Ko could not see the results but when she heard applause, she knew her ball would be close. It was three feet from the hole.
Green’s birdie putt lipped out, and Ko tapped in for a par. She had preserved her 4-up lead with nine holes to play and even though she dropped two holes Green could not reduce the margin.
The American missed crucial birdie chances on the closing stretch.
“When those putts at the 31st and 32nd holes lipped out, I wanted to cry,” Green said after the match.
Ko, inspired by her most recent successes in amateur golf, is in no hurry to change her life.
“I want to go to college, so turning professional isn't a priority,” she said. “There are so many things to learn as an amateur.”
There is no doubt that in Lydia Ko New Zealand Golf boasts a superstar of world golf and today she is celebrating what she describes as her finest achievement in golf.
Cleveland – Result for Sunday's scheduled 36-hole championship final round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club:
Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137) def. Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146), 3 and 1
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