Lydia Ko, the golfing prodigy who won an LPGA Tour event last summer at the age of 15, and northwest Ohio product Caroline Powers, the winner of the 2013 Dinah Shore Award from the LPGA Foundation, have accepted invitations to play as sponsor exemptions in this summer’s Marathon Classic.
The LPGA event, formerly known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, will be staged July 18-21 at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania.
Ko, born in South Korea but raised in New Zealand, is the world’s top-ranked women’s amateur golfer.
Powers, a Bowling Green High School and Michigan State University star, recently turned professional and claimed a top-10 finish in her first start on the Symetra Tour. She also recently won a U.S. Women’s Open qualifying tournament and will play in the Open from June 27-30 at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island (N.Y.) before returning home for the Marathon Classic.
“Playing in the Marathon Classic has been a dream of mine since I was little,” Powers said. “Going to watch the girls play and volunteering as a [scores] runner each year definitely motivated me as a young golfer to have big dreams and keep working hard.
“It seems pretty surreal to be playing in an LPGA event so close to home, and I can’t wait. I cannot think of a better way to start off my professional career than the U.S. Open and the Marathon Classic. It’s going to be quite a summer.”
It was quite a career for Powers at Michigan State, where she was the most decorated player in the program’s history.
This past season, she compiled a 73.81 stroke average, posted six top-10 tournament finishes, placed runner-up at the Big Ten championship, and was named the conference’s golfer of the year.
An All-American scholar, Powers graduated with a 3.87 grade-point average and received the Dinah Shore Award for excellence in athletics, academics, and community service by a collegiate golfer.
Ko, meanwhile, experienced a magical two weeks last August. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur championship at in Cleveland, and she became the youngest player and just the fifth amateur to win an LPGA tournament at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
She forfeited a $300,000 first prize that instead went to the runner-up, professional Inbee Park, who finished three strokes behind.
Ko, 16, has continued as an amateur, combining a fairly heavy schedule with her studies at Pinehurst School in New Zealand.
Ko posted top-25 finishes in both of the LPGA’s major championships held thus far in 2013, the Kraft Nabisco and the LPGA Championship, where she tied for 17th.
She has never missed a cut in 15 professional tournaments worldwide.
— Dave Hackenberg