In what probably is the most amazing accomplishment in professional golf this year 15-year old amateur Lydia Ko bested a strong field of LPGA professionals winning the Canadian Open to become the youngest winner in history of an LPGA event. A year ago Lexi Thompson amazed us all winning the Navistar Classic at age 16-Ko beat that by a year and three months. This is the first time in 43 years that an amateur has won an LPGA event. The last person to do that was JoAnne Carner in 1969 and we all know what a storied professional career that lead to.
Lydia’s golf has been nothing short of spectacular the last two years. She has been the leading amateur in the world over that span of time. She won the Australian Amateur in January, 2012. A week later she won the New South Wales Open at age 14 to become the youngest ever to win a professional women’s event. She followed that in July finishing as low amateur in the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run. Two weeks ago she won the biggest amateur prize of all, the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio.
With a $2,000,000 purse this is one of the richest events on the LPGA Tour and it attracted all the top names including World #1 Yani Tseng, U.S. Open Champ Na Yeon Choi, Evian Masters winner Inbee Park, and #2 on the Money List Stacy Lewis.
Lydia played flawlessly all week shooting 68-68-72 to earn a one shot lead going into the final round. Everyone figured she would buckle under the pressure. But, against all odds, she waxed the field on Sunday, running off four straight birdies to start the inward nine on her way to 67 and a 3-shot margin of victory.
Ko played like a steely veteran not a giddy teenager which was not lost on the professionals whose lunch she ate. As is the custom on the LPGA Tour with a first time winner the other players doused Lydia after she made the winning putt on the 18th green. Albeit with water and not champagne. I guess they were respectful of her being underaged.
Since she is an amateur Ko got bupkis of the $300,000 first place money, the beneficiary of that was Inbee Park who finished top professional at 10 under par. But for her win Lydia Ko got a shiny silver trophy and an invite to the prestigious year-ending CME Group Titleholders invitational in November in Naples, Florida. Word is she is going to play in the Ricoh Women’s British Open next month. She may need to get a hall pass from her high school principal to play but, after what we have seen so far this summer, I would not bet against her winning her first major before she is 16.