New Zealand's Lydia Ko happy to return to Vancouver, where LPGA Tour success started

VANCOUVER — If it wasn't for Vancouver, Lydia Ko might never have become a 19-time LPGA Tour winner.

Ko is back in the field at the CPKC Women's Open, a tournament she has won three times, including her first two victories on the LPGA Tour when she was still an amateur. She said that winning at Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, B.C., in 2012 was instrumental to her development as one of the most successful players in LPGA Tour history.

"I had my first LPGA win in Vancouver and I think it's where everything kind of started," said Ko on Wednesday in a news conference at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver. "Who knows, if I didn't win or play that event maybe I might have not got the same opportunities along the way.

"It's always going to be a very special place for me. Maybe if I win a fourth time I would be an honorary Canadian."

The New Zealander won by three strokes in 2012 then defended her crown the next year at Edmonton's Royal Mayfair Golf Club, winning by five strokes while still an amateur.

She won Canada's national women's championship for a third time in 2015, emerging from a playoff at Vancouver Golf Club to take the title again. Her three Canadian championships are tied with Americans Pat Bradley (1980, 1985, 1986) and Meg Mallon (2000, 2002, 2004) for the most in the tournament's history.

Ko said that the win in 2012 almost didn't happen at all.

"I actually got a sponsor invite to play here in 2012 and then I got a sponsor invite to play another event on a different tour that same week," said Ko. "Imagine if I played the other one.

"I don't know what would have been the story that unfolds after that."

Ko's 19 career LPGA Tour wins have her tied JoAnne Carner of the United States for 15th most all-time. She added three wins in 2022 but has yet to finish atop a leaderboard this season.

"I think there was a lot of expectations coming into this year, whether that's external or internal, there is pressure I put on myself," said Ko. "But golf is not easy. I think the last couple months it's interesting because I feel like I'm progressing but the results are not necessarily showing that.

"The scores aren't a perfect reflection of how I feel like I'm going."

Ko will be grouped with Americans Lexi Thompson and Andrea Lee for Thursday's first round at Shaughnessy.

Rose Zhang of the U.S. will make her CPKC Women's Open debut on Thursday. She won the Mizuho Americas Open on June 4 shortly after turning pro and is playing in just her seventh LPGA Tour event since leaving the NCAA ranks.

"It's been actually a little hectic," said Zhang of her experience so far at Shaughnessy. "I've never seen so many fans out here. There is a lot of Chinese fans out here as well as in downtown Vancouver.

"I've been really welcomed here, so it's been really cool to just see little kids and give out autographs here and there. I've definitely felt the energy."

EPSON TOUR — Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., is the lone Canadian in the field at the Circling Raven Championship in Worley, Idaho. She's 58th on the second-tier tour's money list.

PGA TOUR — Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., tee it up at the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Thursday. It's the first time that two Canadians have made it this far in the PGA Tour's playoffs, where players' FedEx Cup rankings determine how many strokes they have to begin the tournament. Conners starts the event tied for 16th at 2 under and Nick Taylor is tied for 21st at 1 under.

CHAMPIONS TOUR — Calgary's Stephen Ames is third on the Schwab Cup money list heading into Friday's first round at the Ally Challenge. Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., is 40th and will also be in the field at Warwick Hills Golf and Country club in Grand Blanc, Mich.

KORN FERRY TOUR — Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., is third on the Korn Ferry Tour's points list heading into the first leg of the reimagined, four-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., is 33rd and Edmonton's Wil Bateman is 58th. They will join Silverman in the Albertsons Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club in Idaho.

PGA TOUR CANADA — Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald is third in the Fortinet Cup standings but will be sitting out the CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open this week. That makes No. 5 Etienne Papineau of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., the top-ranked Canadian in the field at the Southwood Golf and Country Club in Winnipeg.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press