The LOTTE Championship returns to Ko Olina this week with the first round of the tournament getting underway on Wednesday.
In 2014, Honolulu native Michelle Wie posted a -14 (274) to win the LOTTE Championship. Two months later the Punahou graduate captured the U.S. Women's Open. After her 2015 season was plagued by injury, perhaps Ko Olina is the perfect spot to get the 2016 season going in the right direction.
"I definitely feel very comfortable here, playing in front of a familiar crowd and playing at Ko Olina, the golf course I grew up on," Wie said. "At the same time, it is a lot of pressure. In 2014, when I came here, before that, I’d never played well here. I really took the stress really onto myself, really wanted to try too hard. It’s kind of what I said in 2014, it’s going to take off the pressure off myself and just have fun. Have fun playing in front of my friends and family, and really start to embrace it.”
Wie has made the cut in five of seven events this season with her best finish being a T25 in the COATES Golf Championship Presented by R+L CARRIERS. She'll tee of on hole #10 Wednesday at 7:33 am.
Two more Punahou golfers are in the field. Buffanblu alumnus Stephanie Kono will tee off at 12:17 pm on the first hole. Current Punahou senior Allisen Corpuz will get her first taste of an LPGA event after winning the qualifier in a playoff.
"It feels unreal," Corpuz said. "I'm super excited, a little bit nervous. I've been putting in a lot of work to trust my game, so hopefully it all pays off this week."
Sei Young Kim returns to the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY as the defending champion thanks to one of the most memorable shots in women’s golf, a holed out 8-iron from 154 yards on the first playoff hole to defeat Inbee Park
“Oh, yeah, very happy to be here,” Kim said with a smile. “I have a great memory. I come through here I can see the picture (of her holding the trophy) so, yeah, very impressive.”
While the moment was certainly impressive, Kim has not relived it as many times as you would think.
“Maybe about five times,” Kim said when asked about the number of times that she has watched replays of her incredible shot.
While Kim may not watch the highlights of her shots on the regular it will always be immortalized by a plaque that sits in the 18th fairway at Ko Olina.
“I can see the plaque in the hole, 18 hole in the fairway. They make for me. Yeah, I’m very happy to see that.”
What was her reaction the first time that she saw her plaque?
“Wow, it feels like history.”
The history also brought Kim a new legion of Hawaiian fans who will be out this week supporting Kim.
“A lot of Hawaiian people have memories of me and then cheer me, so I’m very happy.”
lpga pros enjoy hawaii
A constant theme of the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY has been how much the LPGA’s best enjoy traveling to and competing in paradise.
“I’ve been enjoying my time here,” said Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko. “Hawaii is Hawaii. It’s like paradise here. So it’s always good to be back in such a beautiful place with really good weather.”
Ko, who came in to the Islands early for a few days of vacation, has been getting shown around by Hawaii native Michelle Wie.
“I mean, Michelle is the face of Hawaii, so she’s been taking me around to some really great restaurants,” Ko said. “Especially being a foodie, and I think Michelle is a foodie, too.”
The event is extra special to Wie, the 2014 champion, as she gets to play in front of her hometown fans.
“Yeah, I mean, this is definitely one tournament that I always look forward to every year. You know, just the fact that I get to spend a week before the tournament just being here, enjoying the island, and everything,” Wie said. “But I’m very excited to play here. It brings back really great memories, you know, in Ko Olina seeing the staff, seeing Greg Nichols, seeing Mark, was special for me today, too. So just coming back and seeing all the familiar faces has been really great.”
from missing monday qualifying to no. 7 in the world
Last year at the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY, Brooke Henderson was attempting to Monday Qualify for the event and missed out. The 18-year-old Canadian comes into the event a year later as an LPGA Tour winner who ranks seventh in the latest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“Yeah last year wasn’t really the week I was looking for,” Henderson admitted. “I came here and it was a really quick trip. But I love the golf course and I love the area of Hawaii and being her this year.”
Since her showing at Ko Olina last season, Henderson has recorded 10 top-10 finishes, including six straight.
“A lot of things have changed since last year so I am really looking forward to the week and hopefully having a good start tomorrow.”
numbers to know
4 - Following four more events Inbee Park will be eligible for the LPGA Hall of Fame
6 - Brooke Henderson has top-10 finishes in her last six events
3 - There a three native Hawaiians in the field this week - Michelle Wie, Stephanie Kono and 18-year-old amateur Allisen Corpuz, a Sunday qualifier
2 - Lydia Ko has won back-to-back events, the Kia Classic and ANA Inspiration
4, 3, 2 - Inbee Park has finished T4 (2013), solo third (2014) and runner-up (2015) in her last three trips to Ko Olina
5 - This is the fifth year of the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY
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