Amy Yang wins in playoff
The 16-year-old Korean teenager Amy Yang claimed victory in dramatic style today at the ANZ Ladies Masters at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland , with rounds of 69, 66, 70, 70, for a total of 13-under-par 275.
The youngster led the tournament for final three rounds and eventually won in a gripping one-hole play-off against the 22-year-old American Catherine Cartwright, who recorded rounds of 70, 67, 70, 68, also for a 13-under-par 275 total.
With her victory, the talented youngster became the first amateur to win a Ladies European Tour event in 22 years, since Gillian Stewart won the IBM European Open at the Belfry in 1984. In only her second appearance in a professional golf event, Yang outplayed some of the best female players in the world and also became the only amateur to ever win a professional ladies event in Australia .
But because of her amateur status, she won't earn a penny. The first prize winner's cheque of AUS$120,000 will go to Cartwright, who finished in second position and is professional. Cartwright, playing on an invitation, was convinced to enter the tournament by her fellow LPGA Tour playing friend Katherine Hull and hopes to return next year.
Yang, the star of this year's event, should have something of an edge on her schoolmates when she lines up for her classes at Robina High School on Australia 's Gold Coast come Tuesday.
“I played well today. I did my best,” said Yang, who moved to Australia with her family to play golf just 14 months ago. “”I would like to say thank you to my dad for being my caddy.”
When asked how she was going to celebrate the win, she said: “By having a day off,” adding via an interpreter, “I've put in so much effort that now I have won this, I am so happy.”
With three amateurs finishing inside the top three positions, the 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters will be remembered for the phenomenal strength of the performances by its amateur players.
Ruby Tseng, a 17-year-old amateur who lives in Hawaii , finished tied for third position after an incredible round of eight-under par 64 today, which left her at twelve-under-par total after rounds of 73, 69, 70, 64. And Tiffany Joh, a 19-year-old amateur who equalled the course record with a 63 in the tournament last year and lives in San Diego, USA, also finished at twelve-under-par after rounds of 72, 66, 69, 69, along with Sweden's Louise Stahle, a 20-year-old from Lund who resides in Arizona, Stahle had solid rounds of 72, 68, 68, 68.
Ludivine Kreutz, who started the day at ten-under-par, had a final round 71 to finish at eleven-under-par with Australian Nikki Campbell .
Yang also collected the prize for best amateur today, which was in itself a remarkable achievement. She started the day at eleven-under-par, one shot clear of Ludivine Kreutz, and immediately made her mark by moving to twelve-under-par with a three shot lead after she birdied the first-hole, to Kreutz's bogey.
Kreutz then bogeyed the second hole, slipping back to eight-under-par while Yang birdied the third to remain three shots clear of the pack at 13-under.
But the Korean found the greenside bunker at the par-3 fifth hole and dropped a shot to slip back to twelve under par with a two shot lead over a fast charging Tiffany Joh and Gwladys Nocera. At that point the galleries were stunned by a 16-year-old schoolgirl leading over a 19-year-old amateur.
Yang then fired birdies at the seventh and eighth holes to quickly regain a three shot lead at fourteen-under-par and made the turn in 34 with a two stroke lead.
At the par-4 10 th hole, she three-putted for a double bogey which took her back to twelve under par for the tournament.
Meanwhile, American Catherine Cartwright, 22, had been steadily creeping up on the Korean youngster and joined her in a tie for the lead at thirteen under par after she holed a birdie putt at the par-five 12 th hole.
Cartwright recorded her first birdie at the third hole, but then bogeyed the fifth to move back into third, where she started the day.
At the par-4 eighth, she holed a magnificently well struck 6-iron for eagle, which took her to eleven-under-par and outright second position.
Another birdie at the ninth took her to twelve under par and the American then drew level with Yang at after making another birdie at the 12 th hole. Both players had made the turn in 34.
Yang and Cartwright were neck and neck at thirteen under par until Cartwright made a costly error at the 15 th . Her drive found water and she was forced to take a penalty drop, that taking her back to twelve under par for the tournament and one behind Yang in a tie for second position with Ruby Tseng.
Tseng set the Royal Pines course alight today and she moved 15 places up the leader board, after a share of eighteenth position yesterday.
Tseng, who also competed in the ANZ Ladies Masters last year and finished in a tie for 25 th position with Fiona Pike with rounds of 70, 74, 73, 71, beat Michelle Wie in the 2004 US Public Links Amateur. The youngster appeared to have the game and the confidence to go all the way in this tournament as well, and said after defeating Wie: ''I am just as good as Michelle. There is no difference in ability. I hit the ball just as far. There is nothing in it."
Asked if she would have beaten Michelle had she been playing in the tournament today she displayed that same confidence, saying: “Probably.”
Tseng's final round today included eight birdies at the sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th, 12 th , 13 th , 14 th and 17 th holes. With three on the front nine and five on the back she went out in 34 and returned in 30.
One more birdie would have seen her tie for the course record of 63, set by Karrie Webb during the first round of the tournament in 1999 and equaled by Ai Miyazato and Tiffany Joh last year.
She said: “I wasn't aware of the course record and I missed a couple of birdie putts today so I think I could have done it.
“My putter was working well today, as it was when I beat Michelle in the 2004 Public links and that will give me a lot of confidence for the year ahead.”
Meanwhile, Yang, the outright leader, set herself up for a birdie at the par-3 16 th hole, firing an effortless iron-shot straight at the pin and then made the putt to move to fourteen-under-par and gain a two shot lead over the tournament.
That lead was halved when Tiffany Joh birdied the 17 th to move to 13-under-par total and into second position.
Catherine Cartwright, playing in the penultimate group, birdied the 18 th hole to move to 13-under-par and level with Joh, who was playing in the last group.
When Joh bogeyed the 18 th hole to slip back to twelve under par it was down to Yang. Nerves seemingly got to the teenager and bogeyed the last, to slip to thirteen-under-par and enter a two-way play-off with Cartwright.
Yang later admitted that she did not feel disappointed, and thought, “I have another chance now.”
At the first extra hole, it was advantage to Yang as her drive split the fairway and Cartwright found the fairway bunker. Both players were on the green in two, but when Cartwright missed her long putt from the front of the green for birdie, it was all down the young Yang.
In a gutsy display of golf, Yang holed her birdie putt from 15 feet for a birdie three and for the win and for the first time all week the look of utter concentration was replaced by tears in full flow.
Before Yang teed off today, she admitted that her coach Lawrie Montague had told her, “Just have fun. No fear.”
She followed his wise words and with that, announced her talent in front of approximately 160 million television viewers.
Yang is now likely to receive a number of invitations to prestigious tournaments, but she is not planning to alter her plans and has decided to remain as an amateur until she is at least 18 years of age. At present, she claims to compete off a scratch handicap, and plays at the Australia High Performance Golf academy on Australia 's Gold Coast.
Her closest challenger for the title, Cartwright's previous career-best was a tie for seventh at the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic on the US LPGA Tour, where she tied her career low 67 in the final round.
Cartwright, who stands at six feet one inches tall, added: “I played very solid and I'm proud of myself. If I get another invite I'll definitely be back. I enjoyed my time here very much.”
Two players recorded hole-in-ones in the final round of the tournament, bringing the total number of hole-in-ones for the week up to three.
Kreutz was the first to record hers at the par-3 14 th hole during the third round and received AUS$5,000 for her efforts. Korean player Hyun-Hee Moon aced at the 11 th hole in the final round today and Australian Lindsey Wright holed her tee shot at the 14 th hole in the final round, the same hole that Kreutz had aced the day before.
The defending champion, Karrie Webb, finished her campaign with a level par 72, which left her in a tie for 33 rd position on three-under-par 285.