Starry-eyed dreamers have flocked to Los Angeles for almost two centuries in search of something. For some it’s fame, for others it’s fortune. For all, it’s a chance to be great. Not all will see their dreams realized in the City of Angels. But for some, it's their destiny that they should become a star.
Sunday, Nasa Hataoka, whose parents named her after the United States’ space program with the hopes she would aspire to great heights, saw her name in the equivalent of golf’s bright lights atop the leaderboard at Wilshire Country Club. In the shadow of Los Angeles’ famed Hollywood sign, Hataoka carded a final-round, 67 for a show-stopping five-stroke victory at the DIO Implant LA Open.
“I would like to keep counting more and more,” Hataoka said about capturing her sixth career win on the LPGA Tour.
The Japanese star came to L.A. in search of a comeback.
Sunday, Nataoka equated her victory to what Jordan Spieth achieved in recent weeks with his bounce-back victory at the RBC Heritage after he missed the cut at the Masters. Like Spieth, Hataoka missed the cut in her last start at the LOTTE Championship. Disappointed in her performance, she spent the time ahead of the L.A. Open on FaceTime retooling her swing with a mystery instructor in Japan, who she has never met in person.
It’s not unlike the dreamers of yesteryear, who would leave their hometown behind and head for the bright lights of the big city knowing no one. They placed all their trust in agents they'd never met to promote their interests and careers. It worked for some. And it worked for Hataoka.
“I knew I had to make a change,” admitted Hataoka, whose mystery coach had the 23-year-old make a shift in her stance and ball position. “It wasn't really hard to try something new for me, to be honest. So because of that, I think I was able to concentrate more this week.”
Hataoka’s win caps the first of a two-week stretch in Los Angeles. Monday, the biggest names in women’s golf will make the 40-minute drive south down the 405 Freeway to Palos Verdes Golf Club where the LPGA Tour will make its debut at the Palos Verdes Championship. It’s the first time the Tour has staged back-to-back events in the L.A. area. And it’s where some of America’s biggest stars will continue their search for a win.
Plagued throughout her career with painful injuries, Jessica Korda is looking to rewrite her story with her trip to Los Angeles. It's the first time Korda will compete since her runner-up finish at the Chevron Championship having withdrawn from the L.A. Open due to an undisclosed injury. In February, Korda also was forced to withdraw from the Drive On Championship with a rib sprain and intercostal muscle strain.
For Lexi Thompson, the trip to L.A. is a chance to regain her leading lady status with a win for the first time since 2019. The American has seemingly regained the sparkle she had lost in recent years with a recommitment to her game, particularly her short game, and dazzled with a top-5 finish at the season’s first major championship.
The Tour’s two-week swing through the City of Angeles represents a chance for players to dream big. Hataoka earned her bounce-back win and will look to write the sequel to her star-studded performance with another win at Palos Verdes. For Korda and Thompson, it's a chance to make a comeback of their own.
Come Sunday, there can only be one star atop the leaderboard at Palos Verdes but all the women starring in the Tour’s second stop in Los Angeles will all get a chance to shine.