Victoria’s Naomi Ko Bounces Back With Record Round At B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship

Naomi Ko

A Six-Under 67 Moved Victoria’s Naomi Ko To Within Three Shots Of Leader Maddie Szeryk. (JKam Photos/Jurgen Kaminski via British Columbia Golf)

VERNON, British Columbia (Brad Ziemer/British Columbia Golf) — Naomi Ko didn’t get mad. Instead, she got even with Vernon Golf & Country Club in the third round of the B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship.

An 80 in the second round had sent Ko, the first-round leader, tumbling down the leaderboard. The 19-year-old Victoria resident came to the course determined to make amends. 

Mission accomplished.

Ko fired a six-under 67 -- a women’s course record from the blue tees at Vernon -- and shot herself back into contention. She trails leader Maddie Szeryk, a dual citizen from Allan, Tex., by three shots heading into the final round.

“I tried to just put that behind me,” Ko said of the big number, which followed a four-under 69 that had given her the first-round lead. “Honestly, it wasn’t that bad a round, it was just that one hole. I had a triple (on No. 11) and there’s nothing I could do about it. I was pretty upset, because score does matter, but I just tried to come out today and go as low as possible. That was the plan that I set for myself.”

After playing the front nine in one-under, Ko really got her round going on the back side. She made back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th holes and then rattled off three straight birdies on 15, 16 and 17 to shoot a five-under 32 on the back nine.

“I am really proud of myself for bouncing back,” said Ko, a Royal Colwood Golf Club member who is the reigning Canadian Junior Girls champion. “My goal was to get into the final group and I guess I accomplished that.”

While Ko was blitzing Vernon Golf Club with birdies, Szeryk was for the first time this week struggling with her game. After making a total of just two bogeys in her first two rounds, Szeryk made six of them. But she bounced back nicely late in her round, with birdies on two of her final three holes.

She hit the par 5 16th hole in two and just missed a 12-foot putt for eagle. She added another birdie on the par 4 18th after hitting her 9-iron approach to within 10 feet.

She ended up salvaging a one-over 74 and sits at six-under par through 54 holes. The six-shot lead she began the day with had been cut in half by the time the round ended. “It was a tough round but I definitely fought hard to keep it around par,” Szeryk said. “It was nice to finish with a couple of late birdies. I just have to work on a few things and I am excited for tomorrow.”

Ko and Szeryk know each other well. They are both members of Golf Canada’s national women’s team. Fellow national squad members Jaclyn Lee of Calgary and Grace St.-Germain of Ottawa are also in the field.

Szeryk, who just completed her junior year at Texas A&M University, is Canada’s top-ranked amateur at 29th in the world. She recently won the Western Women’s Amateur near Chicago, where she beat Ko 3&1 in the Round of 16.

“We are pretty competitive,” said Ko, who just finished her sophomore year at North Carolina State University. “It's always a friendly competition, but once we are out there, friendship is kind of set aside and we are trying to do our best.”

Szeryk and Ko will be joined in the final group by Surrey’s Michelle Kim, the 2015 winner of the B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship. Kim sits at one-under, five out of the lead, after shooting an even-par 73.

Lee sits alone in fourth place at even-par, while St-Germain is fifth at three-over. The top three B.C. players after the final round will represent the province at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship, which goes July 25-28 at Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont.

CHIP SHOTS: The final group tees off at 9:00 a.m. Ko and Lee lead the two-woman best-ball competition that is being contested during the tournament. They stand at 17-under through 54 holes. That is four shots better than the team of Kim and Gloria Usu Choi of Langley.

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