The 2017 LPGA season saw 22 different winners, showcasing the depth of talent on the tour. Two events into 2018, the new season looks like it could play out in similar fashion. At the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, South Korean rookie Jin Young Ko won wire to wire, shooting 14 under to win by three strokes. The win came with a bit of history as Ko became only the second player to win in her first start as a member of the LPGA Tour, joining Beverly Hanson who did it in 1951 while winning the Eastern Open.
There is a caveat to Ko's feat; the 22-year-old won the LPGA's KEB Hana Bank Championship last October when she wasn’t an official member of the LPGA. That victory guaranteed her LPGA membership for the 2018 season.
Suffice it to say, Ko didn’t play like an anxious rookie when she teed it up at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, opening with a 65 to take an early lead. Even heading into the final round, Ko said that she didn’t feel overly nervous. She had the cushion of a four-shot lead, so that helped. The only anxious moment came when she was made aware of the fact that her win would be historic.
“I tried not to think about it,” Ko admitted.
Ko handled the added pressure with ease, shooting a final-round 69 to win by three over Hyejin Choi. Choi, who is 18 years old, made her name known on the LPGA Tour when she finished second in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur. Choi has since turned professional.
Both Ko and Choi found success on the Korean LPGA Tour before competing in LPGA events. Ko won 10 times on the KLPGA before getting status on the LPGA.
After her win, Ko was asked what her goals are for the season. She said she wanted to earn Rookie of the Year honors. When asked if she’d considered aiming for Player of the Year, she remained modest but certainly not dismissive of the idea.
“No,” she said. “Not yet.”