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S. Korean-born Kiwi Lydia Ko proud of heritage, victory in country of birth

WONJU, South Korea– Lydia Ko may have left South Korea at age four for New Zealand, but South Korea has never left the LPGA Tour star.

Despite playing under the New Zealand flag on the top women’s tour, Ko says she has always been proud of her Korean heritage. And that made the victory Sunday at the BMW Ladies Championship, the lone LPGA tournament played in South Korea, extra special for the 25-year-old.
“My backgrounds are something that I’m very proud of,” Ko said after shooting 21-under to beat Andrea Lee of the United States by four shots at Oak Valley Country Club in Wonju, some 85 kilometers east of Seoul. “I feel so proud to be born in Korea, and I think because of that, I really wanted to win here. A lot of my family is here this week, and I wanted to win it for them as well.”

Ko said having that extra motivation to win in front of her family — she listed off her uncles, aunts, cousins, parents, sister and brother-in-law as members of the family on hand — was a good mindset to adopt.

“I think this week, more than ever, I really, really wanted to win in Korea, and I was hypnotizing myself to get it done,” Ko said. “Every time I come back to Korea, even though I play under the New Zealand flag, so many people support me. I think that is such a boost just to see all of them want it as much as I do. It’s an unreal setting, and we don’t play in many atmospheres like that.”

Answering a question in her fluent Korean, Ko said she had some butterflies in the stomach going up to the first tee Sunday, more so than other tournaments.

“I told my sister I was a bit nervous, and that’s how much I wanted to win in Korea,” Ko said. “Then my sister told me it’s good to be playing with at least some nerves. So I trusted her and tried to focus on my play.”

Ko gave her fans much to cheer about with her back-nine charge. She began the final round trailing Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand by one shot at 14-under and had three birdies against one bogey over her first nine holes to take a one-shot lead at the turn.

Ko made a difficult downhill birdie putt from off the green at the 10th and made another at the 11th. Three straight birdies starting at the 15th put the finishing touch on a round of 65, and Ko said the putt at the 10th was the turning point of her round.

“To be honest, I think if it didn’t go in, I had a pretty hefty par putt coming back. So I was just able to feed off from that,” Ko said. “I normally don’t do fist bumps. And I did a couple of fist bumps in my back nine, because I knew how much that every single one of those putts would count.”

Ko played the back nine 13-under over the four days.

“I think that was the big key for me, just knowing that there are holes out there that you can be aggressive on, even though there are some tougher ones,” she said. “I think I was just able to strategically keep calm and be patient. It was just one of those weeks where I think I’ve played solid all four rounds.”

Ko had been world No. 1 as a teen sensation in 2015. She had risen to as high as No. 3 this year and is at No. 5 now. She said she has been playing more consistently this year than in the season when she was the top-ranked player and added it has become more difficult than before to win on the tour.

“I think to be able to win these days, you’ve got to play well all four of these rounds because you’re playing against the world’s best players, and one mediocre round puts you a few shots behind,” she said. “I think people underestimate what the level of the LPGA is and what the level of women’s golf is right now. I think this is probably one of my best seasons I’ve had, and I wanted to finish my season off strong, including this one, with only three events to go.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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