CHAMPIONS
USGA Champs Spotlight: Ko Makes History, Annika and Jack's Big Roles April 4, 2016 By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Four years before their showdown at the ANA Inspiration, Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn met in the U.S. Women's Amateur. (USGA/Steve Gibbons)

Two familiar foes from their USGA amateur championship days battled down the stretch in the LPGA’s first major of 2016, with a memorable wedge shot on the 72nd hole lifting Lydia Ko, 18, to victory in the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif., her second major-championship title.

Ko, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, trailed 20-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, for much of the final round. Ko had not made a birdie on the back nine at Mission Hills Country Club until the par-5 18th hole, where she hit her third shot to 2 feet and converted the putt to seal a one-stroke victory over Charley Hull and reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun. Jutanugarn, playing in the final group right behind Ko, led by two strokes with three holes to play, but stumbled coming home with three consecutive bogeys to close out her round, putting her alone in fourth place.

Before they were vying for the right to jump into Poppie’s Pond, Ko and Jutanugarn faced one another in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinals, with Ko, then 15, getting the upper hand, 3 and 1. The two were also one round away from facing each other in the U.S. Girls’ Junior final three weeks earlier, but both lost their semifinal matches.

A quartet of USGA champions topped the ANA leader board through 54 holes, with 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson leading Chun, Jutanugarn and Ko by a stroke. Thompson, who claimed the title in 2014, struggled on Sunday with a final-round 73 to finish alone in fifth.

With her victory, world-No. 1 Ko became the youngest woman in history to win two major titles, surpassing Se Ri Pak, who was 20 in 1998 when she won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open.

Reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion Hannah O'Sullivan finished in a tie for 65th, sharing low-amateur honors with Switzerland's Albane Valenzuela. 


Call Her Captain: 
Annika Sorenstam can now add another accolade to her impressive résumé: 2017 Europe Solheim Cup Team captain. The Sweden native, whose 10 career major titles include the 1995, 1996 and 2006 U.S. Women’s Open, will square off against a five-time USGA champion in U.S. captain Juli Inkster when the squads meet at Des Moines (Iowa) Golf and Country Club. Sorenstam, who retired from competition in 2008, compiled a 22-11-4 record in eight Solheim Cup appearances.


Jack Gets Another Call From the Hall: 
Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner and eight-time USGA champion, has been a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1974. Starting next year, he will play a critical role in determining who will join him in enshrinement in St. Augustine, Fla., after being named to the Hall of Fame’s Selection Commission, joining fellow legends Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam as co-chairs. Nicklaus, who was part of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, claimed a pair of U.S. Amateur titles and U.S. Senior Open titles to go along with his record-tying four U.S. Open victories. With the addition of the Golden Bear, the Selection Commission now boasts winners of a combined 16 USGA championships.

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

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