Nobody likes an abrupt ending. You’ve been preparing for four days – planning, playing, setting your schedule – and then things change in a flash. So it was on Sunday at the Marathon Classic presented by Dana, when torrential rains soaked Highland Meadows Golf Club with well over an inch of rain in 12 hours, in addition to the numerous storms that struck Sylvania, Ohio throughout the week. Despite the work of Superintendent Greg Pattinson’s free pawn and his staff, the house was soaked. The people in charge of the LPGA Tour did everything in their power to get as many holes as possible and to postpone the start times by two hours, then three, then four hours. When it finally became clear in the late afternoon that golf could not be played on Sunday, and with a grim forecast for Monday, the organizers and officials made the difficult decision to shorten the tournament to 54 holes.
Under normal circumstances, this type of win would be like taking your cousin to prom. But in this case Nasa Hataoka had a lead of six strokes and had set a new 54-hole tournament record at the tee on Sunday morning. She reached the first legal green when the horn blew and the game stopped. For the record it was her 49th green hit, usually 55 holes. On Thursday she hit everyone, 18 for 18. And on Saturday, the day she shot 64 to flee and hide from the field, hit 17 out of 18.
“It was a stunning exhibit,” said Karen Stupples, who was at the Golf Channel booth all week. “She made great turns and found the center of the clubface.”
This was Hataoka’s fourth LPGA Tour win of her career, but her first since the 2019 Kia Classic. However, it wasn’t the lowest 54-hole total in her five years as a pro. Her first LPGA Tour win, the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, was a 54-hole event in which Hataoka shot 64-65-63 to end the week 21-under. That was also a six-shot victory.
“I know everyone is working really hard to get this to a 72-hole tournament,” said Hataoka. “I wish it could have done that. But in this weather it was really tough.
“I’m happy to win.”
Now Hataoka and her teammates on the LPGA Tour are traveling two and a half hours north to Midland, Michigan for the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the only official annual team event on the LPGA Tour calendar.
This is the second edition of this tournament, in which two-player teams compete in the first and third round with four (alternative shot) and in the second and fourth round with four-ball (best ball) against each other. Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwanapura won the DOW GLBI in 2019 and will defend this week as Team ALL IN at the Midland Country Club. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19.
Hataoka is also in the field, teaming up with Lexi Thompson to become one of the favorites of the week, an impressive duo that combines strength with precise iron play.
Another couple on everyone’s radar is Team Jelly, sister of Jessica and Nelly Korda. Together, the Kordas have scored three wins so far in 2021, with Jess winning the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at the season opener and Nelly winning the Gainbridge LPGA Championship at Lake Nona and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the latter of which drives the younger Korda 1st place in the Rolex ranking.
In addition to Thompson and Danielle Kang, the sisters will also be the four American representatives on the US Olympic team.
They aren’t the only sisters to band together in Michigan, however. Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn will also play together. And there are some best-friend pairings: Team Brittany (Lang and Lincicome) together with So Yeon Ryu and Inbee Park, Sophia Popov and Anne van Dam and Katherine Kirk and Amy Olson.
Sadly, Team Johrassic Park, the pairing of Tiffany Joh and Jane Park, is a best devil duo that will be missing. Dow provided a free hotel room to the team that created the best promotional video. It wasn’t around. Joh and Park’s video included dinosaurs, babies, action, adventure, and Samuel L. Jackson. Unfortunately, as many fans know, Park’s daughter Grace suffered a seizure a little over two weeks ago and is in critical condition with brain swelling at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Joh, who retired from the LPGA tour last week to pursue a career in college coaching, created a GoFundMe page to help out the family.
You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/fight-for-grace-fund?utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter
The Dow GLBI, which starts on Wednesday and ends on Saturday to give players enough time to travel to France for the Amundi Evian Championship, is the perfect complement to the Open Championship, also taking place at Royal St George’s in southern England this week. The audience can watch the last major of the men of the 2021 season in the early hours of the morning and turn on the Dow in the afternoon.
It’s also a great opportunity to see the family dynamics and depths of friendships only found on the LPGA tour.