CIGANDA FLIES UNDER THE RADAR AS REIGNING CHAMPION
In many ways, Carlota Ciganda is flying under the radar this week ahead of her title defense at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship where most of the pre-tournament focus has been on the two local favorites, World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu and World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park.
That’s just fine for Ciganda who is delighted to be back at the SKY72 Golf & Resort’s Ocean Course where she edged out Alison Lee last year in a gripping playoff to claim her first LPGA Tour title.
“It’s always nice to come and be the defending champion,” said World No. 21 Ciganda. “I am very excited to play here and I really like the course. It’s always nice to play in Korea with so many Korean people watching. Now I just want to focus on my game, play my strategy and just have fun on the course.”
Asked what was best about returning to a course where she had previously won, Ciganda replied: “What’s really nice is that you remember so many shots, you remember putts you made, so it’s a lot of good memories. It’s been really nice to practise with my caddie this week and we just talk about last year and the last day, the putts we made and the playoff. Great memories.”
Ciganda stormed from five strokes back on Sunday to win last year’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, edging out Lee with a birdie on the first extra hole.
“I wanted to win so badly,” said Ciganda, who will tee off on the 10th hole at 9:40 a.m. in Thursday’s opening round. “I knew I was playing well but as for when you are going to win, you just never know when it’s going to happen. Just being able to win here against the best players in the world, in Korea right now which has so many top golfers, it was really, really big for me.”
A two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Ciganda has not tasted victory yet this season but feels she is close after recording five top-10s in 2017, her first coming with a tie for fifth place at the Kingsmill Championship in mid-May.
“I am very happy, I think it’s been a good season,” she said. “I’ve been improving. The summer was really good. I finished top five at the U.S. Open, had five top-10s in the summer so I have been playing good and I am just happy. I want to finish the year strong and then have some rest.”
REVITALIZED IN GEE IN “THE BEST CONDITION RIGHT NOW”
In Gee Chun feels energized after taking a three-week break from the LPGA Tour to recharge her batteries and says she is thrilled to be returning to action this week in front of her home fans at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
“I was able to take a break here in Korea so I’m quite excited, and I look forward to playing again after three weeks of rest,” said the World No. 7. “I think that it’s all the more meaningful to start the game again here in Korea. I have prepared hard and I believe that I am in the best condition right now. Hopefully I will see some good results as well.”
In Gee, a two-time major champion, has not won on the LPGA Tour this season, despite coming agonizingly close with five runner-up spots sprinkled among her eight top-10 finishes. Overall, though, she has clearly been displaying some superb golf.
“Of course when you don’t win there is certain disappointment, and I was slightly depressed at times,” said In Gee. “But I think ultimately when you’re runner-up, it means that on the last day the winning player played better than you. I always gave them my heartfelt congratulations, and I actually really meant it.
“I think for me recently, I haven’t really been able to enjoy playing out there, but this is my first time in a year since I have played in Korea in front of my Korean fans, and so I’m really excited. I hope I can channel this kind of excitement into positive energy.”
LOPEZ CONTINUES TO RAISE EARTHQUAKE RELIEF AWARENESS, ENTERS MEXICAN SHARK TANK
An elevated profile will always help when it comes to creating awareness for a worthy public cause and Gaby Lopez has certainly struck the right balance in stunning fashion over the past few weeks.
Lopez was back in her homeland when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck last month, leaving more than 350 people dead and damaging more than 11,000 homes, a disaster which prompted her to donate all her winnings, plus $25 per birdie made, from the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open to earthquake relief efforts in Mexico.
Along with fellow Mexican player Alejandra Llaneza, Lopez tapped into the global LoveArmyMexico campaign, which is fronted by YouTube stars Juanpa Zurita of Mexico and Frenchman Jerome Jarre, and the initial goal of raising funds of $1 million has already been surpassed with the latest total above $1.34 million.
Lopez returned to Mexico City on Oct.2, after tying for 13th in New Zealand to earn prize money of $19,719, and the following day she appeared in a series of television interviews where she appealed to her compatriots to donate more money.
“It’s incredible ... after I got back to Mexico and did those interviews, so many people came to me and said it’s amazing what you’ve done and yet I feel that I did nothing,” said Lopez, who got into the elite field for this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship as a late alternate. “For me, a week of golf is a hobby. It’s what I love to do. It’s not a job for me.
“I would have loved to win in New Zealand to raise more money but I am just really blessed to be here this week in Korea. I am just taking it one day at a time and hopefully we can help Mexico even more.”
Lopez will be donating $25 to the LoveArmyMexico campaign for every birdie she makes this week.
“I don’t do this for attraction or popularity,” she said. “I do it to make people aware of what we are capable of doing to help. I’m the only golfer from Mexico on the LPGA Tour this year so lots of people can look at me and I can make a little bit of noise so they can open their eyes and see what we all can do, not only me. It’s all about spreading the word as much as we can.”
In all likelihood, Lopez has made even more noise after appearing on the Mexican version of Shark Tank, a reality television series that showcases aspiring entrepreneur-contestants as they make business presentations to a panel of ‘shark’ investors, who then choose whether or not to invest.
Though her Shark Tank program was taped in January, it only aired in Mexico last week and undoubtedly gained her a much broader audience after her business pitch was accepted by four ‘sharks’.
“My main goal to go to Shark Tank was to show people that entrepreneurs and business people are willing to help athletes,” said Lopez. “We are lucky to do what we love because we get paid very well but there are lots of athletes who get very little income and they need some economic help.”
- Suzann Pettersen is playing in her 11th LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship and has recorded seven top-10 finishes at the event, including victories in 2007 and 2012.
- Amy Yang is playing in her ninth LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. She won the title in 2013, and has three other top-10 finishes.
- Lexi Thompson has already racked up total prize money of $421,763 at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, despite teeing it up at the tournament just five times. She won the championship in 2015.
- Candie Kung is playing in her 10th LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; she took the victory in 2008.
“I’m just really happy to have the opportunity to gain more experience. I’m very grateful for the invitation (sponsor’s exemption to play in this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship). My goal for this championship is mostly about just building experience.”
- Hye Jin Choi
“If I were to give myself a score out of a 100, I would give myself around 80. I think I did quite well. I’m proud of my work this year.”
- Sung Hyun Park