Lydia Ko turned 17 over the weekend. She also won her 3rd LPGA Tour event at the Swinging Skirts Classic event at Lake Merced GC, in San Francisco.
This is actually her 7th professional win (the others were one each on the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA of Korea Tour and two on the ALPG Tour) win but it will be the first that she gets to keep the money since turning professional at the end of last year.
Ko was paired with Stacy Lewis for all four days of the tournament and after the halfway mark, it become a two player contest as both played superb golf in some very trying conditions.
Ko, who is South Korean by birth but she is from New Zealand, may well be the game’s brightest young star and that is saying something given the constellation of very good young players in golf at the moment.
It has been quite a week for the phenom. On Thursday she was included in Time magazines’ list of the world’s “100 Most Influential People”.
Lewis began Sunday’s final round with a one shot lead over Ko at 10-under par. Ko played aggressively on the front 9 making three birdies mixed in with two bogies to pull even with Lewis who made 9 straight pars.
The turning point came on the par-4 13th hole where Ko would make a birdie and Lewis a bogey that gave the bespectacled Kiwi teenager a 2 shot lead. True to her battling spirit, Lewis would birdie three of the last five holes but Ko offset that run with two birdies of her own including a clutch birdie on the final hole to seal her 1-shot victory.
This is Lewis’s 6th runner-up finish since winning the Women’s British open last August but she was complimentary of Ko in saying that: “I knew she wasn’t going away. Lydia played great. Every time I hit a shot in there, she answered.” Lewis spent time as the #1 ranked player in the world last year and we documented her remarkable story http://www.birdgolf.com/the-new-1/ .
Ko’s first winners’ check of $270,000 made for a nice birthday present but her win was made even more special because her father, G.H., was there to watch it all happen.
Ko’s game really doesn’t have a weakness as all facets are those of an upper echelon player but her mental acuity and demeanor on the course are those of a player twice her age. She plays with ice in her blood and doesn’t let anything bother her, which is so extraordinary in one so young.
With this win, Ko moves up to be the 2nd ranked player in the Rolex World rankings. She would sum up her week by saying: “Normally they would say sweet 16, but I would say it’s sweet 17. I don’t think I could have any better birthday week.”
Many happy returns indeed.