The Marathon LPGA Classic will always hold a special place in So Yeon Ryu’s heart. After earning LPGA Tour Membership with a victory at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, Ryu became a Rolex First-Time Winner with a dominant seven-stroke victory at Highland Meadows en route to 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors.
“Since I joined the LPGA Tour I really wanted to win every tournament, and this was my first time I won the tournament as an LPGA Member, so I definitely felt like it was dreams come true,” said Ryu, who finished second two years later. “Then I think when you're wishing to win some tournament, I think you're playing with the more pressure, and then I was so happy that I was able to go through that tough time to grab the trophy.”
Ryu missed the 2020 tournament, opting to remain home in Korea when the LPGA Tour returned to play following the pandemic-related shutdown. She did not see Highland Meadows without the usual large build around the 18th green and the throngs of daily fans, very vivid reminders of the difficult circumstances going on in 2020. When Ryu returned in December, the Tour was a very different place than it was when she had last seen it.
“When I first came to the U.S. last year in December felt like I just became a rookie all of a sudden,” she said. “I got used to it and I feel like we are getting better and better, and I know like we're doing our best to go through this pandemic period of time.”
Things are indeed getting better, with fans outside the ropes, smaller pro-am parties and kids seeking autographs returning to the everyday experience. Ryu has never finished worse than 35th at Highland Meadows, with three top-10s to her name. And to Ryu, the fans are definitely a major part of her Toledo success.
“I think I just got used to play without fans, but as soon as I got fans back I was like, Okay, this is what I miss. I knew I missed it, but I definitely could see I missed it,” said Ryu. “It was so nice to have all the support, and then especially the local Toledo people so nice to supporting us. They're always the amazing fans so looking forward to playing some good golf in front of the local fans.”