EDMONTON - New Zealand amateur sensation Lydia Ko won the LPGA Canadian Women’s Open for the second straight year Sunday, leaving an elite pro field in her wake.
Ko, whose triumph in Vancouver last year at the age of 15 years and four months made her the youngest LPGA title winner in history, backed up that milestone victory with a five-stroke victory over France’s Karine Icher. “I’m pretty surprised, but I played some really good golf out there, so I was really happy about that,” said Ko, who grabbed another slice of LPGA history as the first amateur to win two titles on the tour. “My goal today was to shoot five-under and just play my own game. If somebody else shot better, then I can’t do anything about it.”
Ko, of Auckland, carded a final-round six-under 64 at Royal Mayfair Golf Club for a 15-under total of 265. The bespectacled teen curled in a birdie putt at 18 — her seventh birdie of the day — lifting her arms in triumph as it dropped. “I didn’t have it coming,” said Ko of her final 15-footer. “That’s why I was like oh, my God. I was pretty worried it would just go straight down because I knew it was a slippery putt. No, I just hit a little bit, and it trickled down in the hole.”
Icher, one of the bevy of Europeans playing this week in the wake of their Solheim Cup triumph over the United States in Colorado, carded a 67 for 270. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, the first player to go 5-0 in the Solheim Cup, had started the day with a one-stroke lead. She carded a 71 to share third on 271 alongside American Brittany Lincicome, who shot 69. After an opening par, Ko birdied three straight holes starting at the second, then added birdies at the sixth and eighth to seize a lead she wouldn’t relinquish.
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen pushed her with a run of three straight birdies starting at the fifth, but couldn’t get the gap below three strokes. Ko led by four after a birdie at the 12th, but gave that stroke back with her lone bogey of the day at 13. But Pettersen’s challenge evaporated with a double-bogey at the 14th. Ko’s 64 was three shots better than the next-best round of the day, Icher’s 67.
“Yeah, no, not too bad for me, obviously,” said Icher, who will take home the winner’s $300,000 purse because of Ko’s amateur status. “But I would love to win one one day, but it’s nice for her. She deserves it. I’m sure she’s a hard worker, and especially in Canada for her it’s special.” Her victory made Ko the first player to defend a title on the LPGA Tour since Tseng Ya-ni won the Women’s British Open in 2010 and 2011.
Ko’s fourth victory in a professional tournament is bound to renew the question of when the 16-year-old phenom will turn professional. She won the New Zealand Women’s Open in February, a Ladies’ European Tour event, while her win at the age of 14 in the Australian LPGA’s Women’s New South Wales Open in January of 2012 had made her the youngest player male or female to win a pro tournament.