THE COLONY, Texas (AP) – Jin Young Ko wanted a new trophy for her new home in Texas and even picked up something for the closet.
She received a pair of cowboy boots for winning Sunday’s Volunteers of America Classic.
The South Korean star had to work hard for her one-shot win. Her putting was not up to her standards. Their game didn’t feel quite as sharp as it did during the nearly two-year reign of Ko as number 1 in the world rankings for women.
But it was enough for a 2-under 69 that ended with seven straight pars for a one-shot win over Matilda Castren of Finland at the Old American Golf Club, about 30 minutes from Kos new home.
“I thought these boots were a good size for me,” said Ko. “So yeah, I just bought a house and then I want to get a new trophy because my old trophies are in Korea. But this new one is special.”
The timing couldn’t have been better.
Ko won for the first time this year, and it was a week after losing number 1 to Nelly Korda, who knocked out Ko by winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Ko had failed to make it into the top 10 in four of their previous five starts on the LPGA Tour. But it flourished not far from its American home in the Dallas area. She finished at 16 under 268 for her eighth career LPGA win. It remains at number 2 in the world.
“I thought I was under a lot of pressure with the number 1 ranking,” said Ko. “But I did it this week. I’m very happy.”
Ko opened with three birdies in four holes to extend their lead. Castren, who won her first LPGA Tour title three weeks ago at Lake Merced, kept her sights on her with a pair of birdies before she turned the corner.
“I thought I couldn’t win this week because, like Matilda, she played very well today and yesterday,” said Ko. “It’s like focusing on my game on the pitch and then I tried not to think about Matilda, playing, hitting the driver or whatever. And it was tough. But yeah, she is good player. “
Castren was in danger of losing three strokes on Par-5 13 when she was in trouble from the tee box and had 20 feet left for par while Ko had about 12 feet for a birdie chance. Castren pocketed her par putt, Ko missed and the lead stayed at one.
The roles were switched at the next hole when Ko missed her tee shot far to the right and could not reach the green. Castren had a wedge in the green but failed to convert for birdie and Ko saved par.
The tournament swung on the 15th hole when Castren missed a 3-foot par putt that snapped hard to the left and fell two strokes behind. She climbed up and down for birdie just before the par-5 17 and stayed in play when Ko missed her birdie putt from 6 feet.
Castren had a 25-foot birdie from the back of the 18th green that missed to the right and set up Ko’s winning par-putt of just under 3 feet.
“I’ve played with her for the past two days and it was just cool to watch her play,” Castren said. “She didn’t make a lot of mistakes, she recovered really well from her not-so-great shots. I can definitely see why she was number 1 in the world for so long.”
Gaby Lopez from Mexico finished with a 65 and was her only bogey on the last hole. She ended up alone in third place, two strokes behind.
Esther Henseleit from Germany could be played with five holes within two strokes. But on the 14th her drive went under a tree and she suffered a penalty drop. She then made a four-foot putt and did her second double bogey of the round, falling four strokes back.
Henseleit finished with a 72 and finished fourth with Ana Belac (68) and Emma Talley, who scored a 63 for her career-low round on the LPGA Tour.
Ko had a lot of support at Old American, with a large contingent of Koreans in the gallery. Ko is one of several South Koreans who are based in the Dallas area.
Her father’s birthday was Thursday, and Ko opened at 63. Her parents stayed at the Old American because it was a short drive from their new home.
“It’s been a great week,” said Ko.