KOHLER, Wis. (AP) – Lydia Ko, the top-ranked amateur player in the world, survived a rough finish Sunday to take low amateur honors in the U.S. Women's Open.
The 15-year-old from New Zealand was 3 under for the day and had a seven-shot lead over Emma Talley of Princeton, Ky., with three holes to go, but stumbled badly from there. Ko lost six strokes and finished with a 3-over 75 that put her at 12 over for the tournament at Blackwolf Run.
“I pulled my third shot on 16 and then pulled my first shot, my drive on 18, and then pulled my third shot,'' Ko said. “It was kind of disappointing the last three holes.''
In stark contrast was Talley, an 18-year-old who shot an even-par 72. After a rough start in the tourney, Talley played the final 30 holes in even par.
Asked what she can take away from her experience in her third Open, Talley said “That I can do it. But I learned that I have a lot of things to work on. But I'm going to be there.''
Talley is headed to the University of Alabama this fall.
Finishing last among the amateurs who made the cut was Alison Lee of Valencia, Calif., who shot a 78 to finish 18 over.
Despite struggling in the final round, the 17-year-old said she enjoyed the Open.
“All in all, it's a good experience. It was a lot of fun,'' she said. “Playing with professionals is an honor.''
Although Ko is still an amateur, she has not only played with pros but beaten them. In January, Ko won a tournament on the Asian women's tour at the age of 14 to become the youngest person to ever win a tour event.
Ko admitted she feels more pressure playing amateur events, which she is supposed to win, than against pros. And she credited the play of the other amateurs who made the cut.
“You know, I guess only three amateurs did make it to the weekend, but everyone out here, they deserve to be out here, and they earned their way here,'' she said. “So I'm honored to get the low winner prize.''
PAK'S STRUGGLES: Se Ri Pak's return to Blackwolf Run for the U. S. Women's Open did not go as well as it did in 1998, when she won her first major title.
But after shooting a 1-under 71 to finish at 4 over, Pak said there was one thing that was better – that she was not the only South Korean in the field.
Na Yeon Choi won to give South Koreans four of the last five Opens, while Amy Yang finished second.
“Back 14 years ago, of course, nobody here from my country, which (made me) feel like really alone,'' she said. “But now, I feel really good.''
Pak's Open victory inspired a golf boom that has seen South Koreans become a dominant force on the LPGA Tour. When Pak won, her entire country watched and many young girls such as Choi began dreaming of duplicating her feat.
When Pak reached the 18th green, she was able to see Choi and Yang on the other half of the connected double-green, which also serves as the ninth green. They were the last pair and were one-two in the standings.
The sight of the two South Koreans delighted Pak, as has the success of other women golfers from her country.
“Just really exciting to watch it,'' Pak said about seeing Choi and Yang.
WALKING WOUNDED: Volunteer Mitchell Krohn not only carried a standard around the long, hard-to-walk Blackwolf Run course Sunday. He also lugged the heavy cast on his right leg that protected his broken foot.
The 15-year-old from Menomonee Falls, Wis., carried the sign with scores for the twosome of Emma Talley and
Sun Young Yoo.
Despite the added weight and awkward way he had to walk, Krohn said “It really wasn't too bad. I enjoyed it.''
The Menomonee Falls High School sophomore was one of 2,000 volunteers. There were volunteers from 42 states as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, many of them 55 and older.
Winner Na Yeon Choi went out of her way to thank fans and volunteers for coming to the course.
“I just want to say to all the volunteers and fans out there they supported me a lot, so that was helping me a lot and encouraging me,'' Choi said.