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Ko becomes youngest to win LPGA tournament 0

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency
Lydia Ko of New Zealand holds the trophy after winning the LPGA Canadian Women's Open golf tournament in Coquitlam, British Columbia August 26, 2012. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (CANADA - Tags: SPORT GOLF)

Lydia Ko of New Zealand holds the trophy after winning the LPGA Canadian Women's Open golf tournament in Coquitlam, British Columbia August 26, 2012. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (CANADA - Tags: SPORT GOLF)

COQUITLAM, B.C. - 

Take your pick - youngest winner to win an LPGA Tour event, first amateur to win a tour event in 42 years .

The list of accolades goes on and on.

No matter how you slice it - and she certainly didn't do anything close to that over the last four days - 15-year-old Lydia Ko made golf history Sunday when she won the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open.

"Wow, 15 years old," tweeted tour veteran Suzann Pettersen. "Lydia Ko made the rest of us look like amateurs. Very impressive!"

Mind-boggling, to be sure.

The kid, Ko, who became the youngest to ever win an LPGA event, laid waste to a field of 156 golfers, including 48 of the top 50 LPGA stars, winning the Canadian open title by three strokes Sunday for a 13-under, 275 total at the Vancouver Golf Club.

It would have been a five-shot victory if not for Inbee Park's 40-yard chip-in on the last hole and nerves finally getting the better of Ko, who bogeyed the final hole with thousands of fans watching - and celebrating - her every move.

"It's amazing," said Ko, a South Korean-born, New Zealand-raised phenom who will have her Srixon glove from Sunday's round displayed in the World Golf Hall of Fame. "I never knew I had it coming. I was so happy to win the U.S. Amateur (two weeks ago), so to win this, I never thought about it. I just wanted to make the cut."

She did that Friday, held serve Saturday and ran away from the field in seemingly textbook fashion Sunday. Holding steady on the more difficult front nine during the final round, Ko then stroked home four straight birdies to start the back nine and added another on hole No. 15 to crush the hopes of any late challengers.

"The first time I looked at the leaderboard was on 17," Ko said. "I wanted to become more relaxed . and I saw there was a four- or five-shot gap, so I kind of tried to play the 18th quite relaxed."

Even though Ko admitted to feeling butterflies because of the large crowd, the home-stretch was academic.

But because of her amateur status, Ko didn't walk away with any prize money from the US$2-million purse.

Instead, the runner-up pocketed the $300,000 top-cash payday, and that amounted to a chipping contest between Park and Chella Choi after both came up 40 yards short of the pin with their approach shots on the final hole.

Park ended it quickly, as she was on the money, jarring her chip-shot for a remarkable birdie and sole possession of second place at 10-under. Choi then took three strokes to bogey the hole, dropping her to 8-under alongside fellow South Koreans Jiyai Shin and Na Yeon Shin, who co-led the tourney with Ko after 36 holes.

"Lydia was too far to catch, and she was playing really good golf out there," said Park, who now has four straight top three finishes and eight consecutive top 10 postings on tour. "I was just lucky that I (got) the winner's cheque. It hasn't happened maybe in 40 years."

In fact, the last amateur to win on the LPGA circuit was JoAnne Carner in 1969. Three others - Catherine LaCoste ('67), Pat O'Sullivan ('51) and Polly Riley ('52) - completed the feat before that.

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, with a final-round 3-under, and American Stacy Lewis, who never really challenged Ko on the day despite being one stroke behind through 54 holes, finished tied at 7-under for the event.

"I got off to a bad start and was struggling early and just never really got anything going," Lewis said. "It was fun, though, watching Lydia play, and I kind of got caught up in her game there at the end.

"She had one of those days that you kind of dream of having, and the fact she's 15 is unbelievable," Lewis added. "Every single shot was right at the pin. Jiyai and I started laughing about it at the end, so it was just really impressive and fun to be a part of history."

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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