Newsmaker of the Year, No. 4: Park vs. Ko


Lydia Ko and Inbee Park made 2015 another march through the record books.

Ko was on so many leaderboards this year, if you didn’t see her name up there, you wondered if somebody should issue an Amber alert.

Same with Park.

Ko and Park didn’t just combine to win 10 of the 31 LPGA events staged this year. They combined for 32 top-10 finishes, 22 top-five finishes. Ko or Park finished first, second or third in more than half (16) of the events staged.

Ko won five times. So did Park.

Ko won a major, Park won two.

Ko won the Rolex Player of the Year title, Race to the CME Globe and the tour money title.

Park, 27, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame doing so. She’ll become the youngest inductee ever sometime next year.

“They both push each other,” said Brad Beecher, Park’s caddie. “No matter what week it is, one of them is playing outstanding golf. It inspires the other one to play better. I don’t know that it’s a rivalry where they feel like, `I must beat her.’ I think it’s more like, `I want to be as good as her. I want to do what she’s doing.’”

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

Ko’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, said the two players bring out the best in each other.

“Inbee’s a great player,” Hamilton said. “Whenever you see you are in a pairing with Inbee, it’s a plus. She drags you up. She has that effect on people.”

Ko keeps proving herself golf’s ultimate prodigy, sweeping through the grandest of youthful slams. At 17, back in February, she became the youngest man or woman to rise to the No. 1 ranking in professional golf. At 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old, she won the Evian Championship, becoming the youngest woman to win a major championship. She became the youngest LPGA Player of the Year and money title winner, and she also became the youngest player to reach 10 career LPGA victories.

Park added two more major championship titles to her total this year, winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She has won six of the last 15 majors. That moves her into elite company at seven major championship titles overall. She has won as many majors as Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb. Only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Babe Zaharias (10), Annika Sorenstam (10) and Betsy Rawls (8) have won more.

Ko closed her first major championship victory with a masterpiece.

Ko’s 63 in the final round of Evian may have been the best performance in the history of women’s majors. Evian isn’t Oakmont or St. Andrews, far from it, but the venue isn’t what distinguished the effort. It was the fact that her 63 was so much better than anybody else’s score trying to win on Sunday, when the pressure to perform is greatest. That’s what made her round feel so historic. Her 63 was seven shots better than anyone else in contention, than anyone among the final 18 players teeing off on that Sunday in France.

Park’s 2015 highlight also came in the final round of a major. Her 7-under-par 65 at Trump Turnberry gave her the title she most wanted this year, the Women’s British Open. The LPGA and Park recognized it as the crowning achievement in a career Grand Slam, her fourth different major championship triumph, though the career “Grand Slam” designation remains debated with the LPGA featuring five majors.

Winning the Women’s British Open came with extra meaning because of Park’s history in that major. She took a one-shot lead into the final round at Royal Birkdale in 2014 and faltered on the back nine. At St. Andrews the year before, she came into Scotland having won the first three majors of the year but fell short trying to make a Grand Slam run when she lost there.

“I’ve set one goal, and one goal only this year, and that’s winning the British Open,” Park said after winning at Turnberry.

Ko and Park left their footprints all over the 2015 season, and they will be looking to do the same next year in extending their march through the LPGA’s record books.