Lydia Ko bested Stacy Lewis in an exciting duel coming down the stretch at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic on Sunday. Ko, who, earlier in the week, turned 17 (and was also named to Time Magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People List), shot a three-under 69 to beat Lewis by a stroke at Lake Merced.
Lewis held the 54-hole lead, but Ko caught her as they made the turn. Then, the pair was tied heading into the 72nd hole.
With Ko’s drive in the rough on the par-4 18th, she had a difficult pitch to a front pin. Calm, cool and collected, Ko hit a perfect shot, landing it just short of the green and rolling it to about six feet for birdie. She made the putt and captured her first-career victory as a professional.
“It was just intense the whole way,” Ko said about the final round. “At one point I had a 2-shot lead, but then Stacy made a birdie and Jenny (Shin) made a birdie. At the 18th hole I knew how loud the claps were, so I knew I needed to hit it close and give myself a birdie opportunity.”
Lewis was complimentary and gracious in defeat. Besides, there wasn’t much she could do, as she simply got outplayed.
“I knew it was going to be tough today. I knew (Ko) wasn’t going to go away and Lydia played great. She answered every time I hit a shot in there,” said Lewis. “More credit to her. I did all I could there. I made three birdies coming in and made her work for it at least.”
To top it off, Ko’s dad, G.H., was present to watch her win.
“Tears nearly ran down my face. You may lose friends, but you’re always going to have your parents,” Ko said. “I try to make myself not cry of happiness, but it was coming to that point.”
Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur the past two years (at two different venues). Last December, she captured the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan in her second week playing as a professional. Ko has six total victories in pro events, winning also in New Zealand and Australia.
Ko’s win last week moves her up to No. 2 in the Rolex World Rankings
“Normally they would say sweet 16, but I would say it’s sweet 17,” Ko said. “I don’t think I could have any better birthday week.”
(Getty Images/Jed Jacobsohn)