After a blustery stay in Los Angeles, the LPGA will be moving further west in search of higher temperatures and more sun at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei. The tournament’s 11th installment will return to the Hoakalei Country Club in Ewa Beach and, as always, will be highlighted by a hula dance during the awards ceremony.
When Hyo Joo Kim last visited the Hoakalei Country Club she shot 11-under – two strokes ahead of her closest competitor – to win her fifth LPGA Tour victory. By all accounts, Kim is poised to put up a staunch defense of her title this weekend. The world No. 9 has been skirting her sixth win since the 2023 season began, having yet to finish outside the top 10. In her three starts she had recorded a T10, a T8 and a T3 result. Her recent third-place finish came at the DIO Implant LA Open where she shot 12-under, buoyed by a pair of 5-under 66s in her opening rounds. Kim’s last win in Hawaii also came on the back of two 5-under rounds to start the tournament. With every tournament, Kim has been inching closer and closer to another win and the LOTTE Championship seems like the perfect place to stage her breakthrough.
Another Player to Beat
World No. 7 Brooke Henderson is another player to beat this week, having won the event back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 by a whopping four strokes in each contest. Henderson is no stranger to the winner’s circle and just captured her 13th LPGA win at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Coincidentally, Henderson also earned her most recent victory by four strokes. So, if Henderson manages to get four shots ahead of the field, it’s probably a sign that win number 14 is on the way.
Winningest French Golfer
World No. 8 Celine Boutier is returning to the LPGA Tour for the first time since her victory at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain made her the winningest French player in Tour history with three career wins. The Frenchwoman earned her win through a birdie on her first playoff hole against Georgia Hall after shooting 20-under through four rounds. Boutier has had a couple weeks off to relax and celebrate her historic win, so by now she should be ready to capture another – if only to set the bar higher for the French players to come.
A Home Crowd in Hawaii
Just two golfers in this week’s field call Hawaii home, but luckily both hail from the island of Oahu: Allisen Corpuz of Kapolei and sponsor invitee Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City. Both are up and coming in the world of women’s golf, with Corpuz just starting her second season on the LPGA Tour and Galdiano starting her second season on the Epson Tour. Corpuz has picked up where she left off in 2022 – 10 top-20 results, including a runner up finish at the ISPS Handa World Invitational – having made her way to T3 in just her second start of 2023 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
For the first time this season, all 31 of the LPGA Tour’s 2023 rookies will be in attendance. The young field is highlighted by 10-time JLPGA winner Minami Katsu who recorded a T7 at the DIO Implant LA Open. Katsu juggled birdies and bogeys through her first three rounds at the Palos Verdes Golf Club, but was able to turn in a clean card on Sunday with eight birdies to bring her score to 10-under for her first top-10 result. But Katsu’s T7 is just the second-best finish from a rookie so far this season. The best finish recorded by a rookie in 2023 was Natthakritta Vongtaveelap’s solo second result at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Vongtaveelap will return to the LPGA Tour for the first time this weekend since that runner up result.