The Republic of Korea won its fourth Espirito Santo Trophy on Saturday by a record-equalling margin with a 72-hole total of 29-under-par 547 at the 27th Women’s World Amateur Team Championships at Mayakoka El Camaleon Golf Club.
“The key is the team play,” said Korean captain Sang-Won Ko. “We have been interviewed over the last few days and the players have been so focused on team play. That makes everyone tight and makes for good results.”
The other medals were won by Switzerland, in second, at 8-under 568 and Ireland, in third, at 7-under 569.
The USA, behind Katelyn Dambaugh, 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Andrea Lee, and Mariel Galdiano finished sixth at 2-under 574.
In 14 WWATCs, the Koreans have taken seven medals in total: four gold (1996, 2010, 2012 and 2016), two silvers and one bronze.
“It’s insane,” said Dambaugh on Korea’s performance.
Added Lee: “The Korean players are definitely the best competitors out here.”
Teenagers Hye Jin Choi, 17, and Min Ji Park, 16, each shot 5-under-par 67 to post a final-round 134, which is second-best to Australia’s 131 in 2014. The Korean duo and Japan’s Nasa Hatoaka shared the day’s low round.
“I travel a lot and the first question is always ‘Why is your women’s game so strong?’ And my first answer is we have a greater number of players and they are trying really hard,” said Ko. “Their target is to turn professional. We may be a small country in terms of the land and the population but we have more than 3,000 junior players and they are willing to turn professional, which is really a huge number compared to the U.S. and Europe so that’s why I believe our women’s golf is strong.”
Korea’s 21-stroke margin of victory over second-place Switzerland tied the championship record set by the USA in Chile in 1998. The 72-hole total (547) is also tied for second-lowest score by a champion. The lowest winning score was 546 by the Republic of Korea in 2010, when they won by 17 strokes.
The nation has finished in the top 10 in 12 of its 14 appearances. The Koreans are tied for fourth in most overall WWATC medals with Sweden and Great Britain and Ireland. Only the USA, with 13, has won more gold medals than the Koreans.
After three rounds, the Koreans held a 14-stroke cushion over Switzerland but, in the fourth round, they kept their low-scoring pace as Choi, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open low amateur, and Park, the 2016 Australian Women’s Amateur champion, shot 6-under 30 and 4-under 32, respectively, at the par 72, 6,295-yard/5,752-meter Mayakoba El Camaleon Golf Club.
“We did really well last time (third in 2014), but we couldn’t do as well as we hoped,” said Choi. “But this time we really did our best and we performed really well, so I am very happy now.”
Although there is no official recognition, Choi led the individual scoring with a 14-under-par total of 274.
Sisters Kim and Morgane Metraux, shot 69 and 72, respectively, for the Swiss, who won their first medal in 23 appearances, with a best finish of tied for fourth in 1988. This marks their fifth top 10 finish.
“It feels great,” said Kim, who plays at Florida State University with her sibling and teammate. “We never thought we would win a medal before coming here. We came with no expectations, just to play as well as we could. It’s incredible that we have won a medal.”