Wins Opening Match After Washing Out Last Year’s Involvement

At the age of 15, Lydia Ko (27-NZ) became the youngest player to win on the U.S. Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour. It took her 12 years to reach 20 career wins. One more win and she’ll be in the LPGA Hall of Fame. Lydia Ko took a two-stroke lead into the fourth round of the 2024 season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions ($1.5 million purse) at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club (par 72-6617 yards) in Lake Nona, Florida, U.S.A. Ko held a steady lead throughout the day, carding four birdies and two bogeys for a 14-under-par 274 total. She finished two strokes clear of runner-up Alexa Fano (20-USA) at 12-under-par to add her first victory in a year and two months.

Lydia Ko became the seventh player in LPGA Tour history, joining Se Ri Park (47), to accumulate 20 career wins before turning 27. With the $225,000 (approximately $300,000) in prize money, Ko also became the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to surpass $17 million (approximately $227 million) in career earnings. With this victory, she now has 26 of the 27 points needed to be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame. One point is awarded for each LPGA Tour regular season title, Player of the Year, lowest stroke average, and Olympic gold medal, and two points are awarded for each major championship. Lydia Ko has won two major championships (2015 Evian Championship-2016 ANA Inspiration) and has twice won Player of the Year (2015-2022) and Lowest Stroke Average (2021-2022). Among Korean players, Park Se-ri (25 career wins) and Park In-bee (36-career wins) are in the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Lydia Ko burst onto the golf scene as the “prodigy girl” when she won back-to-back Canadian Women’s Opens as an amateur in 2012 and 2013. She reached the top of the world rankings in 2015, fell back in 2017, and returned to the top in 2022, five years and five months later. She also endured a three-year slump without a win. He bounced back with three wins in 2022, winning Player of the Year, lowest stroke average, and money list, and even got married. In 2023, he started off strong with a European Tour victory, but then fell into a sudden slump. With only two top-10 finishes, he finished 90th on the money list ($247,335), his lowest ranking since his tour debut. He also failed to qualify for the season finale and lost his chance to defend his title.

Struggling with his shots, he slowly climbed out of his slump by training with coach Lee Siu, 43, best known as the longtime coach of Ko Jin-young, 29, since late last year. “I tried to keep it simple,” she said. She also sought advice from the great Julie Inkster (64-USA). “Aim for an under-par round every day,” she said, which helped simplify her thinking. Lydia Ko partnered with Jason Day (37-AUS) to win the Grant Thornton Invitational last month, a mixed event that pairs players from both the PGA and LPGA tours. Ko’s second shot on the 17th hole in the final round proved to be the difference, and she credits the experience with giving her a huge confidence boost.

Lydia Ko has a home in Lake Nona, where the tournament was held. “The Hall of Fame is so close to me now, it’s right on my doorstep,” he said, “and I’m going to do everything I can to get there.” He has other big goals this year. A silver medalist in Rio in 2016 and bronze in Tokyo in 2021, she will collect Olympic medals by color if she finishes first in Paris in August.

The field included 35 LPGA Tour event winners from the past two years. Hae-Ran Lee, 23, is tied for 12th (4-under par), Hee-Young Yang, 35, is tied for 22nd (1-over par) and In-Jin Jeon, 30, is tied for 30th (7-over par). Sports and entertainment celebrities played in the same group as LPGA Tour players. Jeff McNeil (32, USA) of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets won the celebrity division over retired “golf queen” Annika Sorenstam (54, Sweden).


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