Quake can't throw Ko off her game

Lydia Ko of New Zealand plays a shot at the Coates Golf Championship on Feb 6, 2016.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand plays a shot at the Coates Golf Championship on Feb 6, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

CHRISTCHURCH • With less than three weeks to go till the March 3-6 HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, Lydia Ko produced the kind of result that would send tremors through the golfing world.

Not even an earthquake could stop the world No. 1 from winning the New Zealand Women's Open for the third time in four years on Sunday.

While it was a relatively small tournament, with Dane Nicole Larsen the second highest-ranked golfer in the field at No. 73, Ko showed that nothing leaves her flustered.

The 5.7-magnitude quake affected the Christchurch area about 10 minutes before the 18-year-old began play.

Still, the South Korean-born New Zealander put together a two-under round of 70 to finish on a 10-under 206 at the Clearwater Golf Club.

She was two strokes ahead of South Korean amateur Hye Jin Choi (69), England's Felicity Johnson (67) and Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen (70).

According to the Golf Channel, Ko prevailed at the 54-hole event playing through 52 aftershocks.

"It's been a long week, a lot of emotion and a lot of people to share this amazing victory with," said Ko, who acknowledged the recent passing of one of her mentors, former New Zealand Golf president Patsy Hankins, in a tearful winner's speech.

"Especially given how much New Zealand golf has been a support to me and my career.

"I especially miss Patsy..."

Hankins, a trailblazer for women's golf administration in New Zealand, was a mother-like figure throughout Ko's amateur career, reported the country's news website Stuff.co.nz.

Hankins presented Ko the trophy at this same venue following her first victory in 2013.

Ko was the overwhelming favourite to claim the champion's cheque again and she donated her NZ$47,000 (S$43,800) winnings to a New Zealand charity after living up to the expectations.

"It was good to say I have my first win of 2016," she told Stuff. "It puts me in good rhythm."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Quake can't throw Ko off her game'. Print Edition | Subscribe