Tourists from around the world flock to the beautiful islands of Hawaii to escape life’s work. But, for the best and brightest of the LPGA Tour, it’s where they return to the office for the first of a three-week stretch starting on the island of Oahu with the LOTTE Championship followed by a two-week stint in California. The 10th anniversary of the Hawaiian event begins Wednesday.
For the victors of the LOTTE Championship, a win in Oahu has set the tone for their entire season. Since 2012, when Ai Miyazato won the inaugural event, every winner of the tournament has gone on to win multiple times that same year.
In 2013, Lizette Salas shot a final round, tournament record 62 to force a playoff with Suzann Pettersen, who defeated Salas on the first playoff hole. Pettersen won four times that year.
In 2014, Michelle Wie West won the LOTTE Championship in her home state and the win became a springboard to the child prodigy’s first major victory as later that season she captured the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
In 2015, rookie Sei Young Kim captured her second win of the year in Hawaii after winning the Tour’s season opener in the Bahamas. That same year, Kim went on to win at Hainan Island in China, which gave the young Korean the unique distinction of having won her first three events on three different islands around the world.
Minjee Lee won the fifth anniversary of the LOTTE Championship when she carded a final round 64 to eke out a one stroke victory in 2016. Like Kim, Lee also went on to win again later that season on Hainan Island in her first multi-win season on Tour.
Cristie Kerr recorded her 19th career victory on the LPGA Tour with her win in Hawaii in 2017 and would go on to capture her 20th career win in Malaysia later that same year.
Twice a winner in Oregon and Michigan, Brooke Henderson added Hawaii to her growing list of places where she has won multiple times with back-to-back victories at the LOTTE Championship in 2018 and 2019. And after each of her wins in Oahu, Henderson won once more each year.
In 2020, the tournament was not played due to the coronavirus pandemic but returned in 2021 with an exciting new champion in Lydia Ko. The former Rolex Rankings No.1 returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in three years with her victory at the LOTTE Championship. Ko’s victory was one for the record books as she set both the 54 and 72-hole tournament scoring records with her seven-stroke victory at 28-under par. Later that year, Ko won on the Ladies European Tour and took home the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average of the season on the LPGA Tour.
The 10th anniversary of the LOTTE Championship will be held for the first time at Hoakalei Golf Club, which was designed by Ernie Els and opened in 2009. The four-time major champion factored the island’s local trade winds into account when constructing the layout, which will present a unique challenge for players depending how the winds shift throughout the week.
Jennifer Kupcho, the most recent winner on the LPGA Tour, is amongst the 144 players who will be tested by the new venue. Kupcho, who won the Chevron Championship for her maiden win and first major title, is joined by defending champion Lydia Ko, a winner earlier this year at the Gainbridge LPGA, as well as Danielle Kang, winner of the Tour’s season opener at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Henderson also returns to Hawaii, where the Canadian remains in search of her first win of the season after a stellar start to the year in which she hasn’t finished worse than a tie for 13th in six starts.
As Henderson has experienced firsthand, a win at the LOTTE Championship can set the tone. Players who can successfully navigate the island winds, remain focused on the tournament test ahead, while blocking out the beautiful distractions that lie all around, a victory in Hawaii can become a springboard to a great year. And while the tourists soak in the sun around them, the world’s best on the LPGA Tour will be hard at work - albeit at one of the most beautiful offices on earth.