Golf: Ko makes history with win

Teen sensation rates her NZ Open victory as the finest of her already stunning career.

Lydia Ko with the NZ Women's Open trophy after winning at Clearwater yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko with the NZ Women's Open trophy after winning at Clearwater yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

Golfing sensation Lydia Ko has made history in winning the New Zealand Women's Open in Christchurch.

The teenager made a clutch 1m putt on the final hole to become the first Kiwi to win the ISPS Handa Open, and the youngest player to win a Ladies European Tour event.

As the nerves abated, tears of joy streamed down Ko's face as she came to terms with her third professional win from only 12 events.

"I didn't cry at the Canadian Open so I don't know why I cried here," Ko explained afterwards with her trademark giggle.

"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."

Ko rated her NZ Open win as the finest win of her already so successful career.

"[This win] is at the top. It is the national Open and I came so close in the last three years. This topped it off. The New South Wales Open and the Canadian Open were obviously great wins as well."

She became the first New Zealand winner of the event since it began in 2009 and usurped the record set by South Korean Amy Yang, who was aged 16 years, 6 months, 8 days when she won the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia as an amateur in 2006. Ko is aged 15 years, 8 months and 17 days.

The Gulf Harbour member became only the third amateur to win on the Ladies European Tour after Gillian Stewart (at the 1984 IBM European Open at the Belfry) and Amy Yang (at the 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters).

"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, who worked her way to seven-under for the day and 10-under for the tournament.

Ko had missed a number of chances throughout the day but hung in one shot behind the American, who had managed six birdies, an eagle and one bogey in an explosive first 13 holes. The New Zealand rep admitted to leaderboard watching - she literally couldn't help it.

"Wherever I was putting I saw the leaderboard. On the back nine every time I looked up I saw it and I thought please don't have the leaderboard on this side."

Ko nailed a vital fifth birdie of the day on the 15th hole to draw level with Lewis, before Keating's chances slipped away when she three-putted the final hole to drop out of contention.

Lewis, safely on the final green in two, then three-putted also as the young New Zealander watched from the right-hand rough.

She manoeuvred her approach to within 7.5m from the hole, left her first putt an agonising 1m past but calmly slotted the putt amid roars from the massive gallery that encircled the final green.

"I didn't know what happened on the final hole. My caddy said, 'You have two putts to win,' and I thought, 'Oh God.' I hit on in two with two shots over 300m but having a 10m putt I was more nervous."

The world No38 has continued her quite remarkable rise in world golf. In her 12th start in professional tournaments, she has now won three times and been runner-up twice with her global ranking likely to move close to the top 20. She paid tribute to her parents, her coach Guy Wilson, New Zealand Golf and a familiar rival who set the standard and helped her grow up fast.

"I want to thank Cecilia Cho. I played a lot of amateur golf against her and with her as a teammate. I lost to her many, many times and that stage kind of brought me up."

Ko has no time to rest. She leaves for the ISPS Australian Open today and will be among the tournament favourites after making history in Christchurch.

"I am pretty excited to go to the Australian Open. It's another LPGA tournament and that will be pretty exciting. But I just have to calm myself a bit and start the week fresh."

Ko said she would leave Christchurch with fond memories.

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

Success against the pros

2012 Wins NSW Open to become the youngest winner of a professional golf event, men's or women's
2012 Youngest winner of an LPGA event by winning the Canadian Open
2012 Winner of the New Zealand Women's Open

- APNZ

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