Lydia Ko celebrated her 18th birthday in style last week at the Swinging Skirts Classic, successfully defending the title she had won 12 months prior.
Ko continues to prove she’s wise beyond her years - both on and off the course. The No. 1 player in the Rolex World Golf Rankings announced Wednesday in her pre-tournament press conference at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC that she would donate all of her winnings this week to charities providing relief for the Nepal earthquake.
Although Ko needs only $2,157 this week to push her over the $3 million career earnings mark, none of the money earned this week will go to her bank account.
“Obviously it was very unfortunate when I got to hear that there was an earthquake in Nepal,” Ko said. “We had a big one in New Zealand, too, a couple years ago, and it affected a lot of people. It was in Christchurch, which is called the Garden City. It still has the name, but there is still a lot of evidence of what happened there. Natural disasters you can’t do much about. Sometimes it’s hard to be prepared for it, so I thought, those people there, nice people and very innocent, so I wanted to give this tournament’s earnings and donate it to them.”
While Ko plays for her third win of the year this week- and eighth of her LPGA career - she also will play for Nepal.
Ko will of course start favorite this week, but defending champion Stacey Lewis may be the one to beat competing back in her home state. Lewis has already finished second three times from eight starts in 2015, her worst finish so far being T15th at the Kia Classic. If she can keep her patience and be in the hunt come Sunday afternoon as you would expect her to be, the roars of the home crowd maybe just what she needs to get across the line.
“It’s been another really similar year to last year, pretty consistent, you know, just haven’t quite gotten over the hurdle on Sunday.” Lewis said
Twelve months on since she blew the field away with a final round 64 Lewis will be hoping this is the week she gets back in the winners circle. Although she’s had five runner-up finishes since her last win in Arkansas at the end of last June, Lewis knows she’s on the cusp.
“It’s really hard to complain,” Lewis said. “I made a lot of money, I’m pretty high on the Money List for not having a win. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s working, and I think one of these days it’ll all come together on Sunday.”
The Australian charge will once again be led by Rolex world ranked number 16 Karrie Webb, though Minjee Lee maybe the best of our chances of breaking into the winners circle. After three straight missed cuts following a solid start to her rookie season, Lee has bounced back with Top 20 finishes at the Lotte Championship and the Swinging Skirts Classic and looks to be finding her feet on the US Tour. Her confidence is back and we should start to see the best of her in the next few weeks.
Webb and Lee are joined in the field by Sarah Jane Smith, Katherine Kirk and Sarah Kemp who will all be hoping for solid weeks before a week break on the LPGA Tour next week.