CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand -- Top-ranked amateur Lydia Ko won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open on Sunday for her third victory in a professional tournament.
In an outstanding 13-month spell, Ko has now won the New South Wales Open to become the youngest player, male or female, to win a professional event, the Canadian Open to become the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour, and now a professional tournament at home.
"It was a pretty good day out there and I'm pretty excited to have my name on this trophy," she said. "I didn't cry at the Canadian Open so I've got no idea why I cried here, I guess it meant more.
"It's our national open so to win it means a lot. I'm not the sort of person who shows expression or feelings that much but I guess I did here."
The 15-year-old Korean-born New Zealander approached the last hole in a tie for the lead with American Amelia Lewis at 10 under. But Lewis, in the penultimate group, three-putted from 25 feet for bogey and Ko, playing in the last group, made par to complete a final-round 68.
Ko finished at 206 for the three-round tournament at Clearwater Golf Club. Lewis finished with a 6-under 66 for a 207 for the tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour.
Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, finished in a tie for 25th at 3 under while former world No. 1 Laura Davies was 51st.
Ko became the first New Zealander to win the event since it began in 2009 and shattered the record for youngest Ladies European Tour winner set by South Korean Amy Yang, who was 16 years, 6 months and 8 days when she won the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia as an amateur in 2006. Ko is 15 years, eight months and 17 days.
Ko also became only the third amateur to win on the Ladies European Tour after Yang and Gillian Stewart at the 1984 IBM European Open at the Belfry in England.
"It means a lot and makes it more special to be the first New Zealander to win the Women's Open," she said. "It is always special to make history. I guess I broke history again."
Ko, tied for for the lead after the third round, was overtaken during the final round by Australian Stacey Keating and then Lewis, who worked her way to 7 under for the day and 10 under for the tournament. Ko had missed a number of birdie chances early in her round, but stayed one shot behind Lewis, who carded six birdies, an eagle and a bogey in her first first 13 holes.
Ko nailed a vital fifth birdie of the day on the 15th hole to draw level with Lewis, and Keating’s chances slipped away when she three-putted the final hole.
Lewis, safely on the final green in two, also three-putted as Ko watched from the right-hand rough. She then knocked her approach to within 25 feet from the hole, pushed her first putt three feet past then made the comebacker to ignite roars from the massive gallery.