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Ko My Goodness

August 28, 2012 - Al Stephenson
There was other sporting fare to be watched on this Sunday afternoon. Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia were dueling at the Barclays. The Indians (yeah, I'm still watching them) were playing the hated Yankees. But on this day I could not turn the dial. The Golf Channel was showing the LPGA's Canadian Open and a young golfer was making quite a splash.

Lydia Ko, born in South Korea but a resident of New Zealand since age five, was in contention to win the event. Ko, an amateur, was having a pretty good year. She won a tournament in January against professionals in the land down under. She swept through the competition at the U.S. Women's Amateur two weeks prior. In fact that was the reason she was in Vancouver as she was granted an exemption to play in the Canadian Open. Here she would go up against the best female golfers in the world. By the way, Lydia Ko is 15 years old!

To be exact, she was fifteen years, four months and three days old on Sunday. Yeah, I know. That means she was fourteen for her win in January. In this tournament she was up against the likes of Yani Tseng, Inbee Park, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Lewis, Ai Mizato... You get the idea. The best the LPGA has to offer and heading to the back nine on Sunday she was at the top of a crowded leaderboard.

How would she perform with the pressure on the line? Ko was bidding to become the youngest winner ever on the LPGA Tour. She was trying to become the first amateur to win an LPGA event since Joanne "Big Mama" Carner did so in 1969. That, my friends, was 43 years ago. Things like this just don't happen.

As I watched her make the turn and grab the tournament by the throat, my mind invoked the image of Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes in 1973. Ko gave me that feeling as I knew I was watching a historical moment in sports. When Secretariat thundered down the stretch winning by 31 lengths in the final leg of the Triple Crown, I sat in front of the TV and smiled. I couldn't help but sit and smile on Sunday as well.

Ko was mesmerizing to me and apparently to the announcers also. She started the back nine by scoring a birdie on the 10th. Then she had another birdie on 11, another on 12, another on 13. Ko my! She narrowly missed another birdie putt on 14 only to have her birdie effort drop on 15. Ko My God! As she stepped to the tee on #18 her lead was five, count em, 5 strokes! Against the best in the world. Koly Cow!

Inbee Park made a ridiculous 60 foot chip in birdie on the last hole. Ko "struggled" to a bogey after her approach shot - fueled by an adrenaline spike - went long. That left her with a three shot win and left me with a smile so big on my face that it is almost hard to describe.

Lydia Ko hit the ball long and straight off the tee. Her approach shots sailed directly for the pin. Her putting was amazing. Finding a weakness in her game was nearly impossible. Her future seems so bright that it was nice to hear that she has no designs on turning pro any time soon. She wants to finish high school and then come to the U.S. to attend college. Professional golf can wait.

I think this is a great idea. The game is not nearly as easy as she made it look on Sunday, and at the amateur, and at the January tournament. She may become the greatest golfer on the LPGA Tour. She also may not.

The view from my seat however, suggests that for one day she made golfers everywhere smile deeply. For that I congratulate Lydia Ko. I also would like to thank her for treating me to one of those great sports moments that I will always remember.


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