THE COLONY, Texas — Jin Young Ko wanted a new trophy for her new house in Texas, and she even picked up something for the closet.
She received a pair of cowboy boots for winning the Volunteers of America Classic on Sunday.
The South Korean star had to work hard for her 1-shot victory. Her putting was not up to her standards. Her game didn’t feel quite as sharp as it was during her nearly two-year reign as No. 1 in the women’s world ranking.
But it was good enough for a 2-under 69, as she closed with seven straight pars for a 1-shot victory over Matilda Castren of Finland at Old American Golf Club, about 30 minutes from Ko’s new house.
Ko won for the first time this year, and it was one week after she lost the No. 1 ranking to American golfer Nelly Korda, who supplanted Ko by winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Ko had failed to finish in the top 10 in four of her previous five starts on the LPGA Tour. But not far from her American home in the Dallas area, she thrived. She finished at 16-under 268 for her eighth career LPGA victory. She remains at No. 2 in the world.
“I was thinking I had a lot of pressure with the No. 1 ranking,” Ko said. “But I made it this week. I’m very happy.”
Staked to a 1-shot lead, Ko opened with three birdies in four holes to widen her lead. Castren, who won her first LPGA Tour title three weeks ago at Lake Merced, kept Ko in her sights with a pair of birdies before making the turn.
Castren was in danger of falling 3 shots behind on the par-5 13th, where she was in trouble off the tee and had 20 feet left for par, with Ko about 12 feet for a birdie chance. Castren holed her par putt, Ko missed and the lead remained at one.
The roles were switched on the next hole, as Ko missed her tee shot well to the right and couldn’t reach the green, pitching to 6 feet. Castren had a wedge into the green, but she couldn’t convert for birdie, and Ko saved par.
The tournament swung on the 15th hole, where Castren missed a 3-foot par putt that snapped hard to the left, falling 2 shots behind. She got up and down from just short of the par-5 17th for birdie and stayed in the game when Ko missed her birdie putt from 6 feet.
Castren had a 25-foot birdie from off the back of the 18th green that missed to the right, setting up Ko’s winning par putt from just outside 3 feet.
“I played with her the last two days, and it was just really cool to watch her play,” Castren said. “She didn’t make many mistakes at all, recovered from her not-so-great shots really well. I can definitely see why she was world No. 1 for so long.”
Gaby Lopez of Mexico closed with a 65, making her only bogey on the final hole. She finished alone in third, 2 shots behind.
Esther Henseleit of Germany was within 2 shots with five holes to play. But on the 14th, her drive went under a tree, and she had to take a penalty drop. Then she lipped out a 4-foot putt and made her second double bogey of the round, falling 4 shots behind.
Henseleit closed with a 72 and tied for fourth with Ana Belac (68) and Emma Talley, who shot a 63 for her career-low round on the LPGA Tour.
Ko had plenty of supporters at Old American over the past few days, including her parents, who were in attendance.
“It was a great week,” Ko said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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