When she first arrived on the scene, Michelle Wie was a 13-year-old phenom, a can’t miss talent who was expected to catapult women’s golf into the rarified status of the PGA Tour. Within a couple years Wie had famously flopped, leading to continued questions about anointing teenage golfers as the next big thing far too early.
Now, it appears another teen is actually is ready to compete for the top of the women’s golf throne. Like Wie she is of Asian descent. Unlike Wie, she hails from New Zealand, is a couple years old (15) and isn’t nearly foolish enough to demand to compete against men on the PGA Tour based on her parents’ sheer bombast.
On Sunday, New Zealand-native Lydia Ko shot a 4-under-par 68 to win the New Zealand Women’s Open, the most prestigious event in her home nation. Her one-shot victory over American professional Amelia Lewis gave New Zealand the first ever New Zealand-born victor of its own national women’s open.
The New Zealand Women’s Open win, albeit more emotional than her previous professional victories, is the third notable win that Ko has racked up in the past 13 months. First she won on the Australian Tour, taking the New South Wales Open title. She then became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA Tour event, earning victory in the Canadian Open in August.
Ko also won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2012, and has decided to retain her amateur status. That means that Ko hasn’t been able to do anything to financially capitalize on her success so far, instead turning down the purses she has won for her three professional victories and any advertising opportunities they would have brought just so she can continue to compete at a scholastic and amateur level.
That decision has already cost Ko hundreds of thousands of dollars -- $300,000 at the Canadian Open alone -- but that did nothing to dim just how magical Ko felt about her victory in her homeland on Sunday.
"I didn't cry at the Canadian Open so I've got no idea why I cried here, I guess it meant more,” Ko told Stuff.co.nz, one of New Zealand’s most popular news sites.
"It's our national open so to win it means a lot. I'm not the sort of person who shows expression or feelings that much but I guess I did here. … Even if I was eight metres left people were still clapping. Everyone supported us the whole way, not only me but the other players as well."