Tributes have flooded in from around the world for Lydia Ko - the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour.
The 15-year-old made history today when she shot a five-under-par 67 to win the Canadian Open by three shots. Her achievement was being watched by many golfing greats around the world.
Marnie McGuire is widely regarded as New Zealand’s best-performed professional on the LPGA Tour and she was blown away by Ko’s achievement.
“It is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” said the 43-year-old McGuire.
McGuire finished third on the LPGA Tour once and in a share of third place on two other occasions. She said winning on the LPGA Tour takes something special.
“She is the World No.1 amateur, she’s won the U.S. Amateur but this is something else. She is playing the best golfers in the world and she has beaten them comfortably.”
Sir Bob Charles knows what it is like to win as a teenage amateur. He claimed the 1954 New Zealand Open as an 18-year-old. New Zealand’s golfing knight was impressed by the young prodigy.
"Congratulations to Lydia on her tremendous win in the Canadian Women's Open,” said the 1963 Open Champion.
“I have watched most of her rounds on The Golf Channel here in Florida. She played impressive golf to break many records. I am very proud of her performance as I am sure all New Zealand golfers will be as well.”
New Zealand Golf legend Frank Nobilo, who works these days for The Golf Channel as an Analyst, managed to get his company to spend the first two blocks of the show on her.
“She overshadowed the Barclays [The first Fed Ex Playoff event on the PGA Tour],” said Nobilo. “Amazing.”
Even American superstar Rickie Fowler added into the accolades for the Gulf Harbour player.
“Congrats on your win at Ko_Lyds….Making history @ lpga Pretty cool!,” the one-time PGA Tour winner tweeted.
McGuire said that when the pressure went on in the final nine holes Ko just got better reeling off four birdies in succession to effectively win the title.
“You go through so many emotions and have to deal with a lot of adrenalin during the final round – it is really tough to deal with. Her composure was incredible. I remember one time I was leading in the final round in my time on the LPGA Tour and the nerves got the better of me and I ended up finishing third.
“She is known for her composure and her confidence when she is playing well and today was another great example of that. That stretch of four birdies in a row will go down in Kiwi folklore.”
Charles, who was known for being one of the best putters in the world, had plenty of compliments for Ko’s short game.
“Lydia played beautifully and she was a pleasure to watch,” he said. “Even the two bogeys that she made today were not the result of bad shots.
“She hit the ball very sweetly with her 2-hybrid club and flew through the green and then failed to get up and down but I don’t think she hit a bad shot all day.
“Her driving was always down the middle of the fairway and her irons were so concise. She was going for the pin on every shot and it is great to see someone so young play with the confidence.
“In the end it was a pretty comfortable win for a player who is new to this level and competing with the top 48 out of 50 money winners on the LPGA Tour.
“She has shown that she is good enough to compete with and beat the best players in the world and that is very exciting for a long and successful career in the game.
“The next tournament she’ll play is the British Open and I am sure she’ll play well. She will take huge confidence from this performance and so she should.
“My golfing friends around the world ask me all the time about Lydia, she is certainly growing in reputation. This achievement will take her to a new level in recognition especially here in the States.”
McGuire said whenever Ko decided to turn pro she’ll have plenty of options.
“The world really is her oyster now. She can expect to get invites to any tournament in the world. I’d think that the doors of any of the major tours in the world, the LPGA Tour, the Ladies European Tour and the Japanese Tour will be open for her to play. She can do what she wants.”
“New Zealand Golf has been waiting for a day like this for some time. It has to be the best day in our history since Danny Lee won on the European Tour in Perth.
"Hopefully it brings back some profile to golf in New Zealand. I remember what Michael Campbell’s win did for golf in New Zealand and Lydia has the ability to do the same for the women’s game.
“Every young girl in the country will know who she is and try to follow her example. I hope that this achievement is a massive boost for the game in this country and inspire the next generation.”
Charles, who played as an amateur for six years following his first NZ Open win, has long been an advocate of learning the game as an amateur before turning professional.
“I understand that she has expressed interest in going to College here in the States at Stanford. She has obviously shown that she is good enough but I think she would benefit from a few more years as an amateur.
“I am pleased to hear that she wants to stay amateur for a few more years and that she intends to get an education behind her. While she has endless possibilities with her golf game, you never know what is going to happen and I encourage any young player to keep up the study while they are playing golf to help with other options later in life.”
McGuire said the only advice she would offer to Ko is to pace herself.
"She will have more opportunities and obligations than she can possibly fulfill. She needs to make sure she keep the enjoyment in her game because that is one of the things that has made her successful.”
McGuire added that the money she would have won today was not even a factor.
“Yes she has missed out on the $300k but it is never about the money. She will be well supported for the rest of her life. It is never about the money though. It is about the achievement of winning and in Lydia’s case creating history.”