AFP Rio de Janeiro
South Korea’s Park In-Bee won the first women’s Olympic golf title in 116 years yesterday, using her effortless swing to take a five-stroke victory over New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.
Park shot a five-under-par 66 to finish the tournament at 16-under. Ko, the world number one, ended at 11 under par to take silver while China’s Feng Shanshan finished a further stroke back for bronze.
The normally impassive Park, a former world number one, rolled in a final par putt on the 18th hole and appeared to choke up for a moment as she raised her arms in victory.
The win adds to an impressive collection of achievements for Park, including seven major championships, and will serve to punctuate the dominance of South Korean women golfers.
South Korea had more Olympic qualifiers than any other country, with four, and Park had said earlier in the week that they faced considerable pressure back in Seoul to bring home gold.
Park took the tournament lead from the second round and held on despite a charge by Ko, the world number one, who leapt back into contention in the third round on Friday.
Park, ranked number five in the world, started yesterday two strokes ahead of Ko. But she soon stretched that advantage with four birdies on a flawless front nine.
She hit her tee shot into the water en route to a bogey on the par-five tenth hole, but the typically unflappable Park shrugged it off to card three birdies down the stretch against one further bogey.
Ko, who shot a two-under 69 for the day, couldn’t catch Park, but she birdied the final hole to snatch away silver from Feng, who was already in the clubhouse.
Golf returned to the Games last week with a men’s event that concluded Sunday with Britain’s Justin Rose winning the first Olympic gold medal since 1904.
The last time a women’s event was staged was 1900, when the USA’s Margaret Abbott won a nine-hole tournament at the Paris Games.
“I feel extremely honoured and proud that I get to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. It feels truly unreal,” said Park, whose major wins include three women’s PGA Championship titles. “I have won many tournaments but I have never felt like this before,” she added.
Ko was happy with her silver after a modest first two days and added her belief that the Olympic tournament will boost the sport.
“Before coming here we had some negative press, but I think we have all proved what an amazing week it was for golf, for the woman’s game,” she said.
Russian golfer Maria Verchenova shot a course record nine-under-par 62 in yesterday’s final round, after landing a hole-in-one in the par-three fourth. “It’s amazing because the last one was when I was 21,” the now 30-year-old told reporters. “I didn’t see it go in... People started clapping and I was like ‘Oh my god, I got a hole-in-one.’”
But weaker performances in the previous rounds left Verchenova
far away from the medal podium at four-under.
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