REGINA, Sask. – Lydia Ko was almost Canadian.
Instead, she’s won the CP Women’s Open three times and feels the love from the Canadian faithful any time she tees it up.
New Zealand was always No. 1 for the Ko family, but Canada was in the mix – as her parents looked at both Calgary and Vancouver as cities where they could move to from South Korea.
Ko shot a 6-under-par 66 Thursday at the CP Women’s Open, and was just two shots back of the early lead held by Ariya Jutanugarn and Mariajo Uribe – who both beat the course record at Wascana Country Club.
As an amateur, Ko captured the CP Women’s Open in back-to-back years (in 2012 and 2013) and again in 2015.
“I think the Canadians have taken me in as a Canadian almost,” she said. “I always love coming back to Canada. It's a place where I've had my first LPGA win. Obviously every win is special, but the first there is something a little bit more special to it."
“I feel like the fans have always kind of welcomed me as their own.”
Ko said Wascana Country Club was one of the tighter golf courses she’s played since starting her CP Women’s Open career. She said the greens were rolling quick – Chad Fawcett, the superintendent, told LPGA.com that the greens always run fast at Wascana as they cut them in the evenings and roll them in the morning – and having good speed control will be key over the next three days.
“I think that's going to be really important out there, and especially if the wind picks up,” she said. “The greens aren't going to get slower.”
She said it was nice to have a good round under her belt early and she was happy to take advantage of the calmer conditions.
“This morning there weren't very high winds. When it's kind of like that you really have to try and take advantage of that. I hit the ball so solid. I felt like there were quite a few putts I could have holed that just kind of… I left it hanging,” she said. “But overall, to start with 6-under I think was a solid round.”
Earlier this year Ko won for the first time in almost two years, ending a lengthy winless draught. She currently sits 10th on the Race to the CME Globe.
Ko said Thursday that she hopes the high point of her career is still to come.
“Obviously very lucky to have done what I've been able to do these past few years,” she said. “It's all about the opportunities you get. Things have gone my way a lot of the time, which is great. With golf you're trying to play for many years. You're not just trying to look at that specific season. You've always got things to work on and things to get better at.”
Ko will go into Friday with a fighting chance to win her fourth CP Women’s Open – which would be a record, she’s currently tied with World Golf Hall of Fame members Meg Mallon and Pat Bradley with three titles – and she knows she’ll have the crowd on her side.
And had things gone differently, the crowds might have been cheering on one of their own.
“I think that it's always nice and comforting when you come back to places that you've played well at,” she said. “I think the fans are a huge factor of this event.”