Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ko shoots way into record book

Youngest to win LPGA event at 15

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COQUITLAM, B.C. -- Lydia Ko is not going to the bank to cash a champion's cheque, but she still gets what many pro golfers do not yet have.

Recognition in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The 15-year-old amateur made her mark in golf history Sunday as she became the youngest ever winner of an LPGA event by capturing the Canadian Women's Open title with a 5-under 67.

Since Ko is still an amateur, she could not collect the top prize of $300,000. But her glove will be displayed in the World Golf Hall of Fame after the Florida-based shrine requested a memento from her history-setting round.

"To have something that's mine to be up there, it's amazing, and it doesn't come down or anything," she said. "So it will always remain there, and it'll be a good memory. It's been an awesome week."

The New Zealander finished with a 13-under 275 total to beat Inbee Park of South Korea by three strokes. But the cash went to Park, who made the score closer by chipping in for birdie from an estimated 40 yards on the final hole.

"The pressure she was handling is really amazing," said Park. "I'm really happy for her. It's great for her career -- and I think I was just lucky to get the winner's cheque today."

Ko became just the fifth amateur to win an LPGA tournament and first since JoAnne Carner of the U.S. back in 1969. During the awards presentations, the large crowd chuckled as Ko was presented with the low-amateur medal before she was given the winner's trophy.

Even though Ko is an amateur, LPGA veterans kept with tradition for first-time tour winners and doused her with water. However, her first win in an LPGA was not as meaningful as the U.S. Amateur crown she won earlier this year.

"I didn't cry after this one," said Ko, but (after) that one I did cry," she said. "Yeah, to me, U.S. Amateur is a big event, and obviously this is a huge event as well. But still, as an amateur winning one of the biggest amateur events, I feel like it was a better win -- even though this one was awesome."

Despite the big pro win, the Grade 11 student said she still plans to remain an amateur and go to college in the U.S.

Chella Choi (71) finished tied for third with fellow South Koreans Na Yeon Choi (68) and Jiyai Shin (71) .

Chella Choi and Ko were tied at 9 under after nine holes, but Ko reeled off four straight birdies after the turn to pull away.

"The first time I looked at the leaderboard was on, I think 17 or something. ... But I kind of looked at it because I wanted to become more relaxed, and today I said I had nothing to lose. I've already got the leading amateur in my bag," said Ko.

Ko surpassed American Lexi Thompson as the youngest LPGA Tour event winner. Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic last September at age 16.

Ko, however, is not the youngest golfer to win a professional event. That honour belongs to 14-year-old Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., who eclipsed the mark by winning a Canadian Women's Tour event in Quebec in June.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2012 C6

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