THE COLONY, Texas – Jin Young Ko wanted a new trophy for her new home in Texas, and she 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. Her game didn’t feel quite as sharp as it did during her almost two-year reign as number 1 in the women’s world rankings.
But it was good enough for a 2-under 69 as she closed with seven straight pars for a 1-shot win over Matilda Castren of Finland at the Old American Golf Club, about 30 minutes from Ko’s new home.
Ko won for the first time this year, and it was a week after losing number one to American golfer Nelly Korda, who ousted 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.”
Jin Young Ko finished with seven straight pars for a 2-under 69 and a one-shot win on Sunday at the Volunteers of America Classic. AP Photo / Ray Carlin
With a 1-shot lead, 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 Ko in her sights with a pair of birdies before taking the turn.
Castren threatened to fall back 3 strokes on Par-5 13, where 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.
On the next hole, roles were reversed as Ko missed her tee shot far to the right and couldn’t reach the green, being 6 feet tall. Castren had a wedge in the green but failed to convert for birdie and Ko saved par.
The tournament swung on the 15th hole, where Castren missed a 3-foot par-putt that snapped hard to the left and fell 2 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 finished third alone, 2 strokes behind.
Esther Henseleit from Germany could be played with five holes within 2 strokes. But on the 14th her drive went under a tree and she suffered a penalty drop. She then made a 4-foot putt and did her second double bogey of the round, falling 4 strokes back.
Henseleit finished with a 72 and finished fourth with Ana Belac, 68, and Emma Talley, who shot a 63 for her career-low round on the LPGA Tour.
Ko has had many Old American supporters in the past few days, including her parents in attendance.
“It’s been a great week,” said Ko.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.