With the first major of the 2023 season on the horizon, the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei offers an eclectic collection of world-class talent, including major champions and all 31 members of this year’s rookie class.
One group is a hodgepodge of excitement, including defending champions and Hawaiian talent.
Hyo Joo Kim
With the sand, sun and sea of Ewa Beach behind her, Hyo Joo Kim opened the 2022 LOTTE Championship with back-to-back 5-under rounds. Her strong start proved too great a difference for the competition to overcome and Kim hoisted her fifth LPGA Tour trophy at Hoakalei Country Club. Just last week at the DIO Implant LA Open, Kim started strong, mirroring her last win on tour. Two 5-under rounds to open that competition vaulted her up the leaderboard and she was able to turn in a 12-under performance for a T3 finish. This much is clear: Kim is in winning form and has barely missed her sixth LPGA Tour win since 2023 began. She has turned in T10, T8 and T3 finishes in her three starts so far – slowly climbing closer to a win. With memories of last year’s victory hula dance to fuel her, Kim may find the final push she needs to vault her to the top of the leaderboard.
But Kim is not the only player in the field who knows how to win at the Hoakalei Country Club. Brooke Henderson hoisted the LOTTE Championship trophy in 2018 and then successfully defended her title in 2019. In both years, she was four strokes ahead of her closest competition. The 25-year-old is already a 2023 winner, finding her 13th tour win at the inaugural event of the season, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. However, since that first start, Henderson has struggled to stay in contention. In three events since, the Canadian has not cracked the top 20 and even missed the cut at the LPGA Drive On Championship – a rare misstep. Henderson is sure to use this week to work out some kinks and get back to fighting form. Another win is a near certainty for Henderson, the question is whether it will come sooner or later.
Born on Oahu in Kapolei, Allisen Corpuz is one of just two golfers in this week’s field that can call Hawaii home. In her second season on tour, the former USC standout has proven she’s a rising star in the game working her way into contention. Corpuz turned in a steady rookie season that saw 10 top 20 results, including a runner-up at the ISPS Handa World Invitational. She finished 2022 with a string of four straight top 20s, highlighted by a solo-third at the Pelican Women’s Championship. The 25-year-old has continued to play consistently into 2023 but has only cracked the top 20 once so far with a T3 result at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. This week’s event may be just the thing to boost her into contention once again. In addition to a homefield advantage, Corpuz has some good memories of Hoakalei Country Club, having found her very first top 20 on tour at last year’s installment of the LOTTE Championship. She shot 1-under to finish T18.