South Korea’s Jin Young Ko has announced herself to the golfing world by winning the 2018 ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open in her first start on the LPGA Tour.
Not many people had heard of Ko in Australia prior to her arrival at Kooyonga Golf Club – but they certainly have now, after she enjoyed a dominant wire-to-wire victory.
Ko enjoyed large galleries all weekend and was a crowd favourite on Saturday. But today she played in the final pairing alongside Perth up-and-comer Hannah Green, who stole most of the fans’ support.
“It was a bit different today,” said Ko, who becomes just the second player in LPGA Tour history to claim a title in their first start as a member.
“I played with Hannah … So many galleries say to Hannah, 'Go, go’, me just a little bit. I was sad little bit but I can focus on my game.”
Ko complimented her earlier rounds of 65, 69 and 71 with a steady three-under 69 – which featured five birdies and two bogies – to reach 14-under for the championship and outdo her 19-year-old compatriot, Hyejin Choi, by three shots.
The 22-year-old Ko slept on a four-shot lead over Green, who went toe-to-toe with the champion to also card a three-under 69 and finish outright third.
Green, like Ko, is an LPGA Tour rookie who has set lofty goals for 2018 – goals that were done no harm by finishing as the highest-placed Australian in her national Open.
“My goal was to get into every major, and I know that’s quite hard being a rookie this year, so hopefully I’ve made enough money and keep making money to make sure that I’m definitely in,” said Green, who earned $US87,000 and is happy with the start to her season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” she said. “I’m very proud of my week this week. It’s great to be playing an Aussie Open and be contending.”
Elsewhere, Queensland’s Katherine Kirk fired the round of the day – a sizzling seven-under 65 – to bolt up the leaderboard and finish outright fourth.
The 35-year-old played her final two rounds in 10-under par and credited a hot putter for today’s eight birdies.
“I hit 14 greens,” Kirk said. “The four (birdies) I rattled off early were relatively close, but then I made a couple of long ones too – a couple of 27 footers and a 63 footer on 8 – so really, it was the putter.”
Australia’s highest ranked female golfer, Minjee Lee, was the next best of the local hopes after she signed a two-under 70 to share fifth place.
Meanwhile, local favourite Stephanie Na finished in a tie for 19th thanks, in large part, to an ace at the par-3 3rd hole.
“I hit it good but pulled it ever so slightly, so when it hit the green I thought ‘thank God,’” said Na, who played alongside Dame Laura Davies.
“I didn’t think it was on line and went to pick up the tee. Than everyone was going wild and the next time I looked up, it had gone in.”