Lydia Ko, 15, of New Zealand, defeated Jaye Marie Green, 18, of Boca Raton, Fla., 3 and 1, in Sunday’s final match to win the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which 10 are strictly for amateurs.
The match was hard-fought and both players made very few mistakes. Ko, the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, took a 1-up lead to the lunch break. Then, with the aid of one shot she had never used in competition, took a 4-up lead after 26 holes and held on to win.
"I’ve won a medal at each of the three USGA tournaments I played in (this summer)," Ko said. "So it’s pretty good."
Ko’s U.S. Women’s Amateur medal will go with those for being low amateur in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open and reaching the semifinal round of the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
One hole down at the start of the afternoon round, Green began firing at the flagsticks but missed birdie putts of less than 10 feet on the first four holes. Her only really poor shot came at the 24th hole when her drive hit a tree on the right, ricocheted across the fairway and dropped down into a thicket of trees in high grass in the right rough.
"I should have stepped away from it," Green said. "I just flubbed it. It was the biggest shot I missed in all 11 rounds of golf this week."
Green took two swipes at the ball in the rough. When it didn’t come out, she conceded the hole, giving her opponent a 2-up lead. She would lose three straight holes.
On the 25th, Ko showed off her great touch around the greens on a 60-foot chip. Her ball rolled, broke to the left and fell into the hole. She was now 3 up.
Ko’s approach on the par-5 26th cut through the wind and stopped within 1 foot of the hole. She made a birdie to Green’s par and went 4 up.
But Green had discovered a slight flaw in her golf swing during the lunch break and she began to play aggressively.
"I was really excited," Green said. "So, starting at the 27th, I started going for the stick."
On that par-3 hole, Green’s ball sailed over the flagstick, dropped and settled within 6 feet of the hole. Ko’s ball landed in a greenside bunker. Ko faced a difficult 20-yard shot. She had a downhill lie on damp sand and would have to carry the high lip of the bunker. She had only 12 feet of green to work with.
"I told my dad, if Lydia got that up and down, I would be so impressed," Green said.
As Ko surveyed the shot, her mother, Tina, said, Try that flop bunker shot that you practice for fun. Be aggressive. Pretend it’s a practice shot.
Ko hit her ball out in a spray of sand. It rolled over the edge of the hole. From deep in the bunker, Ko could not see the results but when she heard applause, she knew her ball would be close. It was 3 feet from the hole.
Green’s birdie putt lipped out, and Ko tapped in for a par. She had preserved her 4-up lead with nine holes to play.
Green cut into the lead on the 29th hole. Ko three-putted, made bogey and her lead was reduced to 3 up. At the 31st, Green rolled another 20-foot birdie putt over the edge of the hole and Ko nearly made a 12-footer.
Three holes down with five holes to play, Green desperately needed some magic. When Ko missed her 18-foot birdie putt, Green faced a 10-footer for a winning birdie. Once again, Green’s putt rolled over the edge and stayed out.
"When those putts at the 31st and 32nd holes lipped out, I wanted to cry," Green said after the match.
Green finally won another hole when she hit the green of the 454-yard, par-5 34th with a tremendous second shot that rolled to within 25 feet of the hole. Green two-putted for a birdie. Ko could only muster a par.
But Ko was now dormie-2. She played a safe 3-wood shot down the middle of the fairway on the par-4 35th hole. Green’s 3-wood skipped down a hill, leaving her with a 60-yard approach shot to a green high above. Ko hit safely on but Green was in a muddy spot and her wedge stuck in the turf and the shot was short.
When Green couldn't get down in two from high grass next to a bunker, Ko two-putted for a par to win the hole and the match.
Despite the loss, Green was thrilled by the final match and a responsive gallery of several hundred spectators.
"Oh my gosh, I don't want this day to end," she said. "I've never had that people be so supportive. Lydia has such a great attitude, in that she laughs at everything and she’s fun to play with. "
Ko, inspired by her most recent successes in amateur golf, is in no hurry to change her life.
"I want to go to college, so turning professional isn't a priority," she said. "There are so many things to learn as an amateur."
And there’s an added bonus. "My mom said, if I won, she would arrange for me to meet my favorite Korean movie star (Ji Sub So), Ko said."
At 15 years, three months and 18 days, Ko is the second-youngest champion in Women's Amateur history. The record is held by Kimberly Kim, who was 14 years, 11 months and 21 days of age when she won the 2006 Women's Amateur.
Cleveland – Result for Sunday's scheduled 36-hole championship final round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club:
Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137) def. Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146), 3 and 1