Ko hits paydirt with victory in San Francisco

In just a few short years, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from teenager Lydia Ko and she failed to disappoint once again, sealing a thrilling first win on American soil at the LPGA’s Swinging Skirts Classic in chilly San Francisco.

Just three days after turning 17 and with both her parents watching on, the New Zealander birdied Lake Merced Golf Club’s 18th hole to pip world No. 3 Stacy Lewis by a shot and collect the biggest cheque of her short professional career – US$270,000.

Lydia Ko Lydia Ko (Credit: SMP Images)

Ko held a one-shot advantage over both Lewis and South Korea’s Jenny Shin playing the 18th but found the left-hand rough with her second shot.

With her playing partners both in birdie range, the nerveless Ko executed a great approach to within six feet and holed the putt to complete a final round three-under 69 and a twelve-under total.

Lewis also birdied the last for a final round 71 while Shin closed with a 68 to finish a shot further back.

“It was just intense the whole way. I made a couple of bogeys in the front nine and I tried to recover with some birdies and I still finished my front nine one-under-par and I was surprised by that,” said Ko.

“On the 18th, I knew how loud the claps were so I knew I needed to hit it close and give myself a birdie opportunity.”

It was Ko’s third LPGA Tour win after winning the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Opens as an amateur and her second victory since turning professional, following the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters triumph in Taiwan last December.

Lewis, who led the field by a stroke heading into the final day, praised the work of her younger rival.

“I knew it was going to be tough and she wasn’t going to go away. Lydia played great,” Lewis said. “Every time I hit a shot in there, she answered.”

“That shot she hit in there on 18 was pretty unbelievable. More credit to her. I did all I could, made three birdies coming in and made her work for it at least.”

Australia’s best was Karrie Webb, a distant 16 strokes adrift of the winning score in a tie for 30th, followed by Katherine Kirk in tied 41st.

Tied with Webb but leaving town with an extra $100,000 in her pocket was Dutchwoman Dewi Claire Schreefel, who aced the par-three 12th hole during Sunday’s final round.