Koo leads by 5, eyes AGA history

History could be made Sunday when the final round of the Arizona Stroke Play Championship unfolds at the TPC Champions Course.

Peter Kyo Won Koo, a 15-year-old who plays for the Chandler Hamilton High golf team, has a five-shot lead after carding a bogey-free, 3-under-par 67 in Saturday’s third round. Should Koo hold up, he would replace Bob Goldwater and Philip Francis as the youngest winner ever of a major championship conducted by the Arizona Golf Association.

Koo, who moved to the Valley from Kent, Wash., a little over a year ago, never was in trouble as he rolled in three birdies and missed four other opportunities inside 10 feet.
“I hit the ball really great, but didn’t putt that great,’’ said Koo, who is at 4-under 206 or five strokes better than Apache Junction’s Camron Howell (71), and Scottsdale’s Andrew Medley (72) and Justin Harding (72).

Teen-agers Alex McMahon of Tucson (74) and Scottsdale’s David Lowe (70) are seven and eight shots back, respectively. Beyond that it would take a mini-miracle.

Asked what it would be like to become the youngest winner ever of a major amateur championship in Arizona, Koo began laughing.

“Wow! . . . WOW!’’ said Koo, who won’t turn 16 until Aug. 21. “It certainly would be bigger than any junior tournament I’ve ever won.’’

The legendary Goldwater, known as “the Father of the Phoenix Open’’ for pioneering that PGA Tour event, was 16 when he captured the 1926 Arizona Amateur. Francis, who currently plays for Arizona State, also was 16 when he claimed the 2005 Arizona State Public Links Championship.

Told he could also keep the Hamilton High streak alive of four straight wins by former Huskies in this tournament, following on the heels of alums Andrew Yun (2007, 2009) and Chan Kim (2008, 2010), Koo continued to keep it short and sweet.

 “Unbelievable,’’ said Koo, who is friends with both Kim and Yun.

Not that a five-shot lead is insurmountable with players like Medley, the club champ at Whisper Rock and a former touring pro, in pursuit.

“I’m sure that someone will probably go really low (Sunday),’’ Koo conceded. “But I won’t be thinking about that; I’m just going to think about my score.’’

Koo said that strategy comes as a result of watching the recent Masters.

“I’m lucky in that I saw something in Rory’s meltdown,’’ he said of the final round, when McIlroy imploded with an 80 after leading the tournament through the first 63 holes.

“I think what happened there was Rory was thinking too much about Tiger’s score, about Tiger making (a charge). So I learned from that, and I know the only thing to do tomorrow is think about my score.’’

It’s true: Koo is only 15 but he might be wise – and talented – beyond his years.