South Korea’s Park In-Bee won the first women’s Olympic golf title in 116 years on Saturday, using her effortless swing and unflappable demeanour to take a five-stroke victory over New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.
Park shot a five-under-par 66 to finish the tournament at 16-under. Ko, the 19-year-old world number one, ended at 11-under to take silver while China’s Feng Shanshan finished a stroke further back for bronze.
The normally impassive Park, a former world number one, rolled in a final par putt on the 18th hole at the Rio Games Olympic course and appeared to choke up for a moment as she raised her arms in victory.
The win adds to an impressive collection of achievements for Park including seven major championships, and served to punctuate the dominance of South Korean women golfers.
“This definitely ranks at the top,” Park, now ranked number five, said of the gold medal’s place in her career.
“I have won majors but I haven’t won a gold medal so this feels very, very special.”
South Korea had more Olympic qualifiers than any other country, with four, and Park had said earlier that they faced high expectations back home.
“To hear our national anthem being played over the golf course was just amazing,” said Park, relieved.
Golf returned to the Games last week with a men’s event that concluded Sunday with Britain’s Justin Rose winning the first Olympic gold medal since 1904.
That tournament was dimmed somewhat after more than 20 top men’s stars skipped it, including the four highest-ranked players, raising doubts about golf’s long-term staying power in the Games.
The no-shows were widely criticised.
USA women’s team member Stacy Lewis suggested that men make too much money compared to women golfers to bother representing their countries.
By contrast, this week’s tournament drew all the top female players.