Chella Choi set for Marathon Classic title defense
SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) The commemorative sign on the main road outside Highland Meadows Golf Club reads ''Chella Choi Drive'' in honor of her breakthrough victory last year in the Marathon Classic.
''I can't believe like it has been one year,'' Choi said. ''Can't believe. But I'm so excited come back to here. Everybody knows my name and everybody talks about my street.''
Last year, the South Korean player beat Ha Na Jang with a par on the first hole of a playoff.
Choi's father, Ji Yeon Choi, planned to end of his career as a caddie with the victory, but will be on the bag when play starts Thursday. The retired policeman is headed to the Women's British Open, too, not that he knows it.
''He going but he don't know that. Don't tell him,'' Choi said.
Brittany Lang is coming off a playoff victory over Anna Nordqvist on Sunday in the U.S. Women's Open at difficult CordeValle in California.
''I have a lot of confidence, especially after last week, knowing that in a pressure situation I could get it done,'' Lang said. ''It gives me a lot of confidence. I know my game is in really good shape, and I know that if I happen to get into contention that I can get it done, so it definitely gives me a lot of confidence.''
She enjoyed being introduced on the pro-am tee as a major champion.
''The first time I heard it was this morning, and I was smiling so big,'' Lang said. ''They said, you know, `Solheim participate, winner, and then Manulife winner.' And then they said `major champion.' I was smiling teeing off. It was a dream come true. It's pretty special.''
Nordqvist also is in the field along top-ranked Lydia Ko, No. 2 Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis, the Texan who was born in the area.
''It's always great. I saw a few of my family members today,'' Lewis said. ''I just got into town kind of late yesterday, so things have been a little crazy these last couple weeks, been really busy. I'm just trying to get caught up on sleep and resting my energy for this week and for next week and the week after that. There's just a lot going on, and just trying to take it one day at a time.''
She played alongside Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer in the pro-am.
''His game is pretty good,'' Lewis said. ''He actually started out pretty good, and I think we all got a little tired because we were out there for so long, but he made a couple putts there at the end. He was awesome, though, just great with all the people, made sure he went up and found every kid and signed everything for all the kids. The coolest part I thought was every kid he asked what their name was and personalized everything and took time to do it. He didn't have to do that.''
Ko won in consecutive weeks in Southern California this year, the second the major ANA Inspiration, and tied for third last week in the U.S. Women's Open. The 19-year-old New Zealander was asked if the Zika virus was a big concern going into the Olympics.
''It's not something I've been really worried about,'' Ko said. ''I believe in all the experts and everybody that's taking care of this. I truly believe that if it was so dangerous that we couldn't compete and it wasn't right that I'm sure they would pull us off in the first place. We've got the world's best experts there handling all the situations, so as an athlete perspective, I think it's right for us to believe and trust them.''
Henderson is making her first appearance in the event. The 18-year-old Canadian was 64th last week at CordeValle. She beat Ko in a playoff in the major KPMG Women's PGA and successfully defending her title in Portland, Oregon.
''I love this golf course,'' Henderson said. ''Walking in, seeing the trees and the bentgrass, it kind of reminds me of home a little bit, and courses that I tend to play well on are those tree-lined courses like the three that I've won on the LPGA Tour. Definitely good vibes.''
Duke's Virginia Elena Carta, the NCAA champion this year as a freshman, is making her first start in an LPGA Tour event.
''I'm not sure how I'm going to be on the first tee. I'm curious,'' Carta said. ''It's going to be great. Probably going to be shaking for sure.''
From Italy, she was looking forward to meeting Duke grad Lang.
''I'm going to get to know Brittany Lang. That's going to be great,'' Carta said. ''I'm kind of nervous to get to know her especially now that she won the U.S. Open, like right after it. It's kind of, `Wow, that's unbelievable.' I'm excited.''