Golf: Ko claims title at Clearwater

World No 1 amateur Lyida Ko has won the New Zealand Women's  Open at Clearwater Golf Course in Christchurch today to claim her third professional tournament win. Photo / Getty Images.
World No 1 amateur Lyida Ko has won the New Zealand Women's Open at Clearwater Golf Course in Christchurch today to claim her third professional tournament win. Photo / Getty Images.

Teenage golf prodigy Lydia Ko created even more history today in Christchurch by becoming the first Kiwi to win the New Zealand Women's Open.

The 15-year-old seems to rewrite the record books in every other tournament she plays and, after a drama-filled final hour, today was no different.

Ko made a clutch three-foot putt on the final hole to become not only the first New Zealand woman to win her national tournament but also the youngest player to ever win a Ladies European Tour event.

It's her first win in 2013 and her third professional victory from only 12 events, with the previous two triumphs also record-breakers.

Last year Ko won the New South Wales Open to become the youngest player, male or female, to win a professional event, before backing that up by taking out the Canadian Open to become the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour.

But those accolades now take a backseat in Ko's already bulging list of career highlights. The world No 1 amateur ranked her win at the Clearwater Golf Club her finest - and she had the tears of joy to prove it.

"I didn't cry at the Canadian Open so I don't know why I cried here,'' Ko said. "I guess it meant more. It is our national open so to win means a lot. I am not the person who shows expression of feeling but I guess the tears showed it.

"[This win] is at the top. It is the national open and I came so close in the last three years.''

Ko, who is still aged only 15 years, eight months and 17 days, finished tied seventh on her New Zealand Open debut aged 12. The following year she was tied fourth and was only five shots back from the winner Kristie Smith.

But she went even better this year, cementing her status as the most exciting young prospect in world golf. Ko's amateur status prevented her from claiming the winner's share of the $315,000 prize purse _ but making history provided plenty of consolation.

"It means a lot and makes it more special to be the first New Zealander to win the Women's Open. It is always special to make history. I guess I broke history again.''

It wasn't always likely. The joint overnight leader was caught and overtaken during the final round by Australian Stacey Keating and then American Amelia Lewis.

Ko had missed a number of chances throughout the day but hung in one shot behind the American, before nailing a vital fifth birdie of the day on the 15th hole to draw level with Lewis.

On the final hole, Lewis three-putted as the New Zealander watched on from the right-hand rough. Ko then maneuvered her approach to within 25 feet from the hole, left her first putt an agonising three feet past but calmly slotted the second amid roars from the 1000-strong gallery encircling the final green.

"My caddy said, `you have two putts to win', and I thought, `oh God'. I hit on [the green] in two with two shots over 300m but having a 10m putt I was more nervous.''

The win continues remarkable rise of the world No 38. Ko has finished in the top two in five of her 12 professional tournaments, and her global ranking is likely to move close to the top 20.

Ko has little time to celebrate her achievements, though. She leaves for the Australian Open tomorrow tomorrow morning and will be among the tournament favourites after making history in Christchurch.

"I have always liked coming to Christchurch but I will love it now. This week has been very special for me.''

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