Talented teenage golfer Lydia Ko added another accolade to her exceptional junior career in Melbourne yesterday when becoming the first New Zealander to finish the women's Australian Open as the leading amateur.

The 13-year-old from North Harbour exceeded her own expectations by completing the $790,000 tournament in a share of 12th place with a 3-under tally of 289, 13 strokes behind dominant back-to-back champion Yani Tseng, of Taiwan.

Ko fought blustery conditions admirably on the Commonwealth Golf Club, signing off with a 2-over 75.

After opening with two even par rounds, Ko's 5-under 68 propelled her up the leader board on Saturday and handily clear of nearest amateur rival - compatriot and close friend Cecilia Cho.

Ko maintained her buffer to again finish as the top amateur, emulating her feat at last month's New South Wales Open when she was centimetres from potentially becoming the youngest ever winner of an Australian Ladies Professional Tour event.

Though ineligible for a share of prize pool due to her amateur status, Ko's achievement - in her Open debut - was still recognised at the presentation ceremony where she received a medal and silver salver.

In terms of performances by New Zealanders at the tournament, Ko's exploits were only eclipsed by Marnie McGuire who won the 1998 edition as a professional.

The bespectacled Korean-born student was delighted with her efforts - as evidenced by a fist pump to her caddy when her approach to the 18th rolled on to green.

"I was happy with that," she said. "My five wood wasn't going too well today so on the last hole I was glad to hit it straight when everyone was watching."

After a couple of practice rounds on the 6076m course Ko was cautious before teeing off on Thursday - surviving the cut and maybe a top-20 finish were her prescribed goals.

She easily met both challenges, gaining confidence after reeling off 18 straight pars in her opening round.

"In the practice round I didn't think I would play this good but after the first round I thought 'No, I can shoot
under par and make good scores out there'.

"It was a good achievement, I'm really pleased at getting leading amateur. I'm sure everyone in New Zealand will be proud of me."

Cho, 16, added a a 2-over 75 to three par rounds to finish 35th equal on 294.

Aware her profile would rise even higher after this weekend's exploits, Ko denied she would be under more pressure to perform at her next tournament, the women's New Zealand Open at Christchurch's Pegasus Golf Club from February 17-20.

"I don't think so, it just gives me the courage to play well in my next tournament," she said.

- NZPA