JAYAI SHIN has been to Australia enough times now to be able to say “G’day Mate” to a local crowd without it sounding contrived.
The “G’day Mate” was her opening line to an appreciative audience at Royal Canberra Golf Course Sunday after accepting the 2013 Women’s Australian Open title.
Just to rub the local knowledge in, Shin followed up a few lines later with the equally successful: “I’ll be missing all the kangaroos and meat pies.” (There have been plenty of both at Royal Canberra this week.)
Shin had the large crowd around the 18th green, as she had with the large galleries for most of the day, eating out of her hand.
It could so easily have been different. She could have been the experienced, older villain who had just dashed the dreams of teenage golfing prodigy Lydia Ko.
But as the bubbly 24 year old South Korean told her media conference later when asked about her positive, cheerful on course persona: “Well, this is me.”
Shin and Ko had started the final round even on 17-under in what was expected to be dogged, match play style battle to decide the winner.
Maybe nerves got the better of the 15 year old amateur when she put her first tee shot left into the trees. To groans from the crowd, she also hit a tree trying to regain the fairway, eventually only managing a double bogey seven on the par five.
When Shin, taking her usual straight down the middle of the fairway course, sunk her first putt of the day for a birdie, things were quickly looking decidedly grim for the young Korean born New Zealander. That first hole was a three stroke turnaround.
To her credit, Ko fought back a couple of times to get within a stroke of the leader, but fell away over the back nine.
In the end, Shin’s 1-under 72 was enough for a two stroke victory over world No.1 Yani Tseng, who swooped from left field with a 7-under 66 to threaten for the title but finished just short on 16-under.
Ko had her worst round of the week; not hard when you start with a 10-under 62. She signed for a 3-over 76 to finish alone in third place on 14-under.
“Finally I have a win in Australia and I am really happy about that,” said a delighted Shin, who was runner up in the event in 2008 and 2011.
It was the 11th LPGA win for the former world No.1 and a great kick start to her tournament year after recent problems with injury.
Shin explained she had first visited Australia as a 14 year old and had made maybe 10 visits. She had also had some extra-curricular and unofficial coaching on Australian culture and slang from her ex-Aussie caddie and her current Aussie trainer.
“The first time I came to Australia I fell in love with it and I wanted to come every year,” she said.
“When I come here I feel really comfortable so I really enjoy it,” she said, adding the support from the local crowds was “amazing”.
As for 15 year old Ko, the world’s leading amateur golfer, with a swing and a temperament to die for, the future is at her feet.
She already has three wins in professional tournaments and maybe the next one could be next week when the LPGA moves to Thailand.
Ko said she wasn’t that worried about the wins or the money she could be making as a professional at this stage, she’s just happy to be able to play on the LPGA Tour – and other big events like the upcoming NZ PGA Championship – whenever she can.
Aussie competitors didn’t reallt set the world on fire this week. Katherine Hull-Kirk led the pack with a 4-under 69 seeing her finish tied for 8th on 11-under.
Sarah Jane Smith (73 ) was next best at T15 on 8-under while Whitney Hillier (73) and Rebecca Artis (73) were T18 on 7-under.
Karrie Webb also finished with an even par 73 but won’t be that happy with her 5-under total and T36 placing.2013 Australian Women’s Open Final Leaderboard
2013 Australian Women’s Open Final Round Photo Gallery (Click bottom right for full screen)