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 as 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) after putting up a good fight with Ko on the front nine.
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. Altogether, Ko finished with seven birdies and two bogeys.
“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.
Park’s fortuitous final chip came as she and Chella Choi were tied coming down the 18th fairway. After Park chipped in, Chella Choi missed her par putt.
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.
Ko previously held the record on the basis of a victory at an Australian tournament in January.
“To break another record, or being in the history, it’s amazing, and it’s always awesome to be able to play with the pros,” said Ko.
She bettered 48 of the top 50 professionals in the world who competed alongside her at the 6,681-yard, par-72 Vancouver Golf Club. World No. 1 Yani Tseng, 23, was “very impressed” with Ko’s showing.
“I didn’t even know what I (was) doing when I (was) 15,” said Tseng. “So it’s pretty amazing to see her play this good (on) the best stage.”
Tseng, who was mobbed by autograph-seekers Sunday, posted a 2-over 74 Sunday and tied for 35th with a 1-over 289 total.
Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont., the lone Canadian to qualify for the weekend, posted a 1-over 73 and finished with a 2-over 290 total.
She capped off her tournament with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to finish,” said Shepley.
With the win, Ko qualified for the LPGA’s CME Group Titleholders tourney in Naples, Fla., in November, which is open to event winners and other qualifiers. But Ko does not know if she will compete, because October and November are months when she usually devotes herself to exams and other schoolwork.
“I need to go to school and stay in New Zealand sometime,” she said.