April 28, 2014
Teen sensation Lydia Ko began the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic by being serenaded with ‘Happy Birthday’ from the gallery on Thursday.
On Sunday, the 17-year-old South Korea native who moved to New Zealand at age six followed that up with a victory dance.
Ko, a rookie who burst onto the scene with four wins as an amateur in 2012, birdied the 18th for a 69 and held off Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic by one at par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club.
Ranked No.4 in the world and recognized on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list, which came out on her birthday, the win is Ko’s first on the LPGA circuit. She’d finish with a total of 12-under 276 (68-71-68-69).
“Normally, there would be a Sweet 16, but I would say it’s Sweet 17,” Ko said. “No, it was great. I don’t think I could have any better (of a) birthday week.”
The top ranked American at No.3, Lewis shot a final round 71 to come in at 277. At age 11, Lewis was diagnosed with scoliosis, a deformity of the spine, and was forced to wear a back brace for nearly eight years, 18 hours a day. After her senior year in high school, Lewis had surgery with doctors inserting a rod and five screws to correct the condition.
The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic was the first LPGA event in Northern California since the 2010 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk CC in Danville.
Its current contract runs through 2016. The players would love to see the tournament become a permanent fixture.
“I just hope we can build a foundation and keep it here for many years,” Santa Cruz native Juli Inkster said. “I think the community will support it. It’s just about building it, and making it better and better each year. You have all the amenities here. Now we just need to get fans out here and I think it’s going to be a success.”
Along with Inkster, other players with Northern California ties who competed were Paula Creamer (Pleasanton), Mina Harigae (Monterey), Christina Kim (San Jose) and Natalie Gulbis (Sacramento).