WONJU, South Korea: New Zealand’s Lydia Ko fired a 65 on Sunday to capture her 18th LPGA Tour title at the BMW Ladies Championship — and her first in South Korea, the country of her birth.
The 25-year-old’s seven-under par final round gave her a four-shot victory over American Andrea Lee at Oak Valley Country Club.
Ko carded eight birdies with just one bogey to capture the $300,000 winner’s check after finishing on 21-under 267.
“I feel so proud to be born in Korea,” Ko, whose family moved to New Zealand when she was four, told reporters.
“I think because of that, I really wanted to win here,” she said.
“This week my relatives are here, my direct family is here. And I wanted to win it for them as well.”
World No. 5 Ko became the fifth LPGA player this season to have multiple victories, and it was the first time she had achieved the feat since 2016.
“This week, more than ever, I said I really, really want to win in Korea, and I think maybe that was a good mindset or I was hypnotising myself to try 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 and I think that is such a boost,” she added.
“It’s such an unreal setting and we don’t play in many atmospheres like that.”
Ko started the final round one shot behind the 54-hole leader, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, at 14-under. But Atthaya, ranked second in the world, stumbled to a round of 74 to finish sixth, missing out on her chance to overtake South Korean Ko Jin-young and become the new world No. 1.
The Thai would have jumped to the top of the world rankings with at least a fourth-placed finish.
South Korea’s Ko Jin-young, who was the defending champion, withdrew before the third round after shooting 80 and 79 on Thursday and Friday.
It was her first tournament after two months out with a wrist injury.
Choi Hye-jin and Kim Hyo-joo finished as top South Korean players, tied for third with American Lilia Vu at 16-under par 272.
Sunday’s final round signalled the retirement of South Korean golfer Choi Na-yeon, who wrapped up her 15-year career with an emotional farewell.
Earlier this month, the 34-year-old announced that the BMW Ladies Championship would be her final LPGA tournament.
A tearful Choi made par on the par-five hole to card a four-under 68, her best round of the week, finishing two-under 286 for the tournament.
“I was fighting back tears from the beginning of the 18th hole,” said Choi.
“After I hit the tee shot, Amy Yang said, ‘Good job,’ and started crying.
“And that last putt, I couldn’t really see the ball because of my tears.”