I needed to play good to keep up with her. Lydia Ko speaking about Stacy Lewis
First win in the United States
By Roger Childs
Lydia Ko kept up with and passed American Stacy Lewis, to take the Swinging Skirts Golf Classic at the picturesque Lake Merced course in Daly City. This is her first victory in a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament since turning professional in October 2013.
She will now become the second ranked player in the world: a remarkable achievement for the young Kiwi golfer who has just turned 17. On the first day of the tournament, the gallery at the first tee sang Happy Birthday.
Coming from behind
At the start of the final round she trailed Lewis by one shot, but took a share of the lead at the 10th. Lewis played well on the front nine but the putts just didn’t go in. Korea’s Jenny Shin was also in the mix and picked up shots on the two leaders.
Ko took the lead on the 13th with a birdie (one under par) and kept her cool on the back nine. It was all decided on the final hole, where Ko, with her proud father watching, made a 2-metre birdie putt to seal the victory. She finished 12 under, one shot ahead of Lewis and two ahead of Shin.
Hitting the big time
Lydia Ko had a great year in 2013 with wins in
- The Canadian Open in Edmonton – her second consecutive victory
- The Swinging Skirts Tournament in Taiwan.
After months of speculation, Ko turned professional in October, and many wondered how she would fare on the tough American LPGA circuit. The 16 year old had to get special dispensation to join the professional ranks where there is a minimum age of 18. There was also some criticism about whether dropping her New Zealand coach, Guy Wilson, was a wise move.
But Ko took things in her stride and in the Phoenix Founders Cup in March she was close second to Australian Katrina Webb.
She is now a global star and TIME magazine recently named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Golfing legend, Sweden’s Annika Sorestam, wrote
Lydia Ko is exceptionally talented, mature beyond her years and well liked by golf fans and competitors alike. She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe.
Travelling around on the LPGA tour is an expensive business and there was a recent request for addition financial assistance for Lydia from Sport New Zealand. However, her $NZ 310,000 winner’s cheque from the San Francisco tournament should mean she won’t need further taxpayer funding. All the signs suggest that there will be more big cheques to come.