If So Yeon Ryu had three wishes, none of them would directly involve golf.
If she could meet one person in the world, it wouldn’t be a legendary golfer — or a legendary athlete. She would, however, choose to have lunch with a current professional golfer from her native South Korea.
Ryu, the 2012 Jame Farr Toledo Classic winner, brings a unique personality to this year’s tournament renamed the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Currently ranked among the world’s top 10 in the LPGA, Ryu didn’t grow up in an environment where golfing was the be-all, end-all. Instead, she has a bit of a renaissance background.
She plays the violin and the piano, and two years ago, she had a decision to make after she won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open: would she continue her education at Yonsei University in South Korea, or would she devote her time to traveling the world as a professional golfer?
She chose to pursue professional golf. But she became more than just another golfer. Ryu brought her love of fashion, music, travel and dining into that realm.
Her three wishes are for her family’s happiness, to be able to travel back in time to her childhood and to have what she says is “the most delicious food at every meal.” Her lunch partner would be K.J. Choi, who is in his 20th PGA season, and if there was one person she wishes to meet, it would be the late Hollywood startlet and fashion icon Marilyn Monroe.
“The great thing about the LPGA Tour is that it’s such a global tour — a very diverse tour,” said Judd Silverman, executive director of the Marathon Classic. “You’ve got the greatest women golfers in the world and they’re coming to play in this tour. They all want to play here. They’ve got the best of the best.
“We talk about sports figures and personalities, someone like So Yeon, she’s multi-talented. A very interesting person. Once you get to know her, she’s a phenomenal young lady. She does everything with a smile on her face, and that’s refreshing, from a professional athlete. She does it all with such grace.”
A year ago, Ryu hit a stretch of good — and lucky — golf in the midst of one tournament. During the final day of the 2012 Farr Classic, Ryu had six straight birdies on the final day of competition to win the tournament title by seven strokes over Angela Stafford.
“All the spectators supported me so well last year,” Ryu said. “They encouraged me a lot and I want to give back my good energy at this tournament. I feel really comfortable here and made a great memory here.”
Ryu, 23, finished 2012 as the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. She made the cut in 23 of the LPGA’s 24 events in 2012, and in addition to winning at Highland Meadows, had 15 top 10 finishes last season.
“After I won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open in 2011, I hadn’t won any tournaments,” Ryu said after a recent luncheon at Highland Meadows. “After I won this tournament, I got confidence. It helped me the rest of the year, last year. This tournament was really, really helpful.”
Ryu embarks on a personal challenge at Highland Meadows — and through the remainder of the 2013 season.
“Every professional sport, people only remember No. 1,” Ryu said. “People only remember the champions. That’s why everyone really wants to win. That’s why I really want to win. After I won this tournament, I got a title as an LPGA member because I won the U.S. Women’s Open as a non-member. That made me think, I can do this again. It wasn’t just one win.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.