CLEVELAND -- Lydia Ko is this year's U.S. Women's Amateur champion after defeating Jaye Marie Green of Boca Raton 3 and 1 in today's 36-hole final at The Country Club. The 15-year-old New Zealander is the second youngest winner in the 112-year history of the event, next to Kimberly Kim who won in 2006.
"It feels great to live up to the expectations," said Ko, who is the top-ranked amateur in the world and only further asserted her status this week. "There's a lot of pressure on the world's top amateur."
Ko took a 1-up lead to the afternoon round against Green, who struggled to convert several birdie chances in both the morning and afternoon rounds. "Lydia doesn't give you anything," said Green, who heads to Q school this fall. "I knew I had to make a lot of birdies, I just didn't get the putts to fall when I needed."
Ko stretched her lead to 4 up at the turn of the afternoon 18 and closed out the victory with a 17th-hole par, despite stumbling slightly down the stretch. Green, who was 3 down with three holes remaining, birdied the par-5 17th to continue the match, but was unable to make a much-needed birdie on 17 with Ko on the green in regulation.
"I got a little nervous at the end, but some pep talks helped," said Ko, whose mother and caddy helped to keep her calm. "It was a good match. Jaye is a really strong player."
The victory is Ko's first in the United States and comes close to the end of her highly successful summer-long stay here. She reached the semifinals of the US Girls' Junior, earned low-amateur honors at the US Open, and has now claimed the top amateur prize in golf. Ko has an exemption to play in the Canadian Open later this month, after which she'll head to Korea, her birthplace.
Ko plans to keep her amateur status and eventually attend college, wishing to take a different route than her role models Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson. "There are so many people in New Zealand who go to college overseas, I think that kind of inspired me," said Ko. "There are so many things to learn as an amateur."
The victory boosts Ko's already impressive resume and gives her added confidence going into the Canadian Open, knowing she has beaten the world's best amateurs. She's already won a professional event, but that doesn't diminish the value of her victory this week.
"Winning a professional event is amazing. But to me as an amateur, this tournament is much more meaningful."