Ko's youngest Rookie of the Year at 17
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
NEW Zealand teenager Lydia Ko has been named the LPGA Rookie of the Year, becoming the youngest player ever to claim the award at 17.
The South Korean-born star won the 2012 and last year's editions of the LPGA Canadian Women's Open, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA event at age 15 and then retaining that crown, although both wins came as an amateur.
Ko was given a special exemption in October last year to join the LPGA, the tour waiving its minimum age requirement of 18 because of her proven proficiency.
Laura Baugh was 18 when she was named the Rookie of the Year in 1973.
This season, Ko has clinched top newcomer honours with two events remaining on the calendar, this week's Lorena Ochoa Invitational and next week's Titleholders tournament.
Ko won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April by one stroke over American Stacy Lewis, and in July took the Marathon Classic by one shot over South Korean Ryu So Yeon.
The teenager also has two runner-up efforts and nine other top-10 finishes this season for US$1.56 million (S$2 million) in prize money.
"It has really been a dream rookie season for me," Ko said on Wednesday.
"I learnt so much and am glad to have achieved some of my goals along the way.
"It's an honour to have my name now etched alongside such amazing players and legends of the game on the list of Rookie of the Year winners."
That list includes such Hall of Fame players as Swede Annika Sorenstam, Australian Karrie Webb, South Korea's Pak Se Ri and American Juli Inkster.
Ko made 40 cuts in a row, which is the longest current streak on tour. She is only the eighth newcomer with multiple wins to take Rookie of the Year since the award's inception in 1962.