By Vince Robitaille
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Significant sporting events are somehow hard to come by. We’ve all witnessed a thriller once in a while. We’ve all stood there rooting for the overwhelming underdog to complete the comeback. Rarely though, do we get to say “I was there” or “I saw that” when a defining moment in a sport’s history is discussed. Well, if you watched Lydia Ko’s victory this weekend, congratulations folks, you can now pull the line off.
Not only did the young Auckland, New Zealand resident win an LPGA event as an amateur on Sunday, a feat that last occurred months before the original Woodstock, she did so at a National Open that was a major in the pre-Cigarette Ban era, a mere decade ago. Just there, the performance could be described as top-tier. If we add the fact that she became the youngest winner on Tour at 15 years, 4 months and 2 days old – sorry Lexi – or that she’s the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, we’re reaching a whole other level. Of course, one could argue that said level could be named Matteo Manassero-level, but the Italian captured The Amateur two years before his first professional win at a rather minor European Tour event.
To further keep things in perspective, the scale by which all golfers are now judged – Tiger Woods – only made the cut on 7 occasions as an amateur for a batting average 0.412. Oh, before I forget, those stats covered a four-year period that ranged from age 16 to 20. Ko is just 15, and has notched her second professional victory; the other coming in the Bing Lee Samsung Women’s NSW Open back in January. If you can do the math, she was 14 years old at the time.
The newest prodigy’s Canadian visit began with a decision that brought us back to the Fuzzy heydays at Augusta National, i.e. picking a local rounder to handle bag duties for the duration of the Championship. In the modern era of golf, this could be seen as a move with high probabilities of backfiring, especially for a still “immature” golfer; psychological backup and comfort zone being forfeited for unparalleled course knowledge. Once more, however, the advantages trumped the possible cons. Ko’s stoic attitude could, of course, have something to do with this.
After a sneaky 68 that had her sitting in third place behind LPGA forerunners Yani Tseng – resurging briefly only to fade away – and Na Yeon Choi, Ko’s steady climb to the top of the leaderboard culminated in a bind with Chella Choi after 36 holes. Moving day represented the only bump in the eventual champion’s proverbial road, but sometimes you’ve simply done enough work before moving day to render it obsolete. In fact, despite Ko staying stuck in neutral all day – four missed three-footers representing the main reason for such a stall – the South Korea-native found herself ahead of the pack as her closest pursuers headed backwards and her previous lead on rest of the field had them covered. Interestingly enough, Saturday’s round saw two other former every-week-contenders lurking around in hopes of a disastrous stumble by the 2012 Robert Cox Cup recipient, namely Suzann Pettersen and Jiyai Shin. Much like the pair previously alluded to, the former’s blunders left her shaking her head as the latter climbed on the podium’s last step.
The final round looked like it would lead to a highly polarized outcome, a sad return to reality for an astounding athlete and the crowd supporting her or the celebration of a new hero. Seven birdies, four of which came right after the turn, sealed the Tiger Red-wearing Ko’s fate pretty quickly. On-lookers catching a piece of golfing history weren’t the only lucky ones this weekend. The CN Canadian Women’s Open champion’s reiteration of her intention to enroll at Stanford University saved LPGA executives from having to deal with another case of Lexithompsonitis. I guess that the Tour’s petition procedure incongruities will have to be revised some other time. For now, I was there. I saw that.