The LPGA returns to Ko Olina this week for the 2017 LOTTE Championship featuring a 144-player field that includes 80 of the top 100 women's golfers in the world.
Among them is Honolulu native Michelle Wie who has climbed back to #75 in the rankings following a hot start to the 2017 campaign after struggling in both 2015 and 2016.
"This year [I'm] trying to have a better mindset of just having fun out there," the Punahou graduate said of her return to form. "I think a lot of times when you're struggling with your game, or whatever, you kind of forget that it's a game and to play it as a game. This year I'm really just trying to have fun out there."
Wie closed out the 2016 season with three finishes inside the top 30. Rather than take significant time away from the game in the offseason as she normally does, Wie honed her game to keep up the momentum she had long been working to establish.
After a missed cut in her first event of 2017, Wie has finished no worse than 35th in the five tournaments leading up to the LOTTE, including a tie for fourth and a sixth place result at the year's first major.
Wie is still looking to breakthrough with a win, nearly three years since her last victory on tour. Prior to her 2014 U.S. Open triumph, Wie was a winner at Ko Olina. The build up to that win looked very similar to the results she has posted so far this season.
"There are a lot of great memories to draw upon from that season," Wie said of 2014. "Coming here feeling confident is always a good thing. I'm just really excited to be home. I always look forward to this event more than any other event."
Wie isn't the only local player that will tee it up at Ko Olina this week.
Hilo native Britney Yada will make her LOTTE Championship debut after earning conditional status on the LPGA Tour this season. A three-time BIIF champion at Waiakea High School, Yada went on to win the Big Sky Individual Championship at Portland State before spending two years on the Symetra Tour.
This will be her second start in an LPGA event. The first was last year at the Kingsmill Championship where Yada said she learned she wasn't far off talent-wise, she just needing to shore up her short game.
Being in the field at the LOTTE is just the beginning of Yada's dream.
"It's surreal seeing all these women that I watched growing up on TV every week, and now I'm finally one of them," she said. "I know if I stay patient and make those pars, birdies will come. I'm just going to enjoy my time, enjoy the walk, enjoy the weather, enjoy the fans, and just enjoy being home."
Play gets underway first thing Wednesday morning. For tee times and pairings, click here.
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