Ko, Fellow USGA Champions Thriving as U.S. Women’s Open Approaches

Lydia Ko is one of several USGA champions that will head into the U.S. Women's Open having tasted victory in 2014. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Lydia Ko is one of several USGA champions that will head into the U.S. Women's Open having tasted victory in 2014. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Monday, April 28, 2014

By Scott Lipsky, USGA

On the heels of a banner week on and off the course, Lydia Ko appears poised to be a major factor in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst in June. On Sunday, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion held off Stacy Lewis by one stroke to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif. The win came three days after Ko was named to the Time 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Ko made the “Pioneers” category, with her profile written by three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam. That honor came on the same day the New Zealander celebrated her 17th birthday.

“Normally they would [call it] a Sweet 16, but I would say it's Sweet 17,” said Ko after her victory. “It was great. I don't think I would have any better [of a] birthday week.”

Despite her youth, success on golf’s biggest stages is nothing new for Ko. Her triumph this week at Lake Merced is her third LPGA title, but her first as a professional. Her first victory came in August 2012 at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, just a few weeks after she captured the U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio. Earlier that summer, Ko competed in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced, advancing to the semifinals before being eliminated by Alison Lee.

With the U.S. Women’s Open set to begin on June 19, Ko is one of a group of USGA champions who seem to be peaking ahead of the championship, which will be held at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2, the week after the U.S. Open is staged on the same Donald Ross masterpiece in the Sandhills of North Carolina.

Ko’s win on Sunday made the Swinging Skirts the third straight LPGA Tour event to be won by a USGA champion, and the fifth in the last six. Ko’s victory was preceded by 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Michelle Wie capturing the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii last week, and 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson claimed her first career major in the Kraft Nabisco Championship two weeks prior to Wie’s victory. Wins by U.S. Women’s Open champions Karrie Webb (2000, 2001) and Paula Creamer (2010) started the trend. Webb claimed both the ISPA Handa Women’s Australian Open and JTBC Founders Cup, while Creamer won the HSBC Women’s Champions. In addition, Jessica Korda, a member of the winning 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team and runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur that same year, won the LPGA’s season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January.    

While they will be searching for their first U.S. Women’s Open victories, the trio of Ko, Wie and Thompson have all experienced success in the championship. Ko (2012) and Wie (2004) both earned low-amateur honors, while Thompson has notched three top-15 finishes in the last four years. Wie also tied for third in 2006, her first time competing in the Women’s Open as a professional.

Scott Lipsky is the USGA’s manager of websites and digital platforms. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.

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T7THOMPSON, Lexi+4F+1
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