By SCOTT COTTOS
SYLVANIA — Each year, a street here is named for the champion of the LPGA’s Marathon Classic.
In-Kyung Kim got her first look at the sign bearing her name after flying in from New Jersey early Monday morning for the media day leading up to this year’s Marathon Classic.
“I thought it was really neat,” Kim said with a smile during an interview Monday at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
She undoubtedly would like to keep the sign unchanged for a while longer, and she’ll have the chance to do that when she returns to try to defend her championship July 12-15.
“I always play well on this golf course,” the 29-year-old South Korean said of Highland Meadows’ 6,762-yard, par 70 track. “Sometimes you have to play well, but the course really has to suit you.
“It’s a little bit of everything. I haven’t won because I’ve played well sometimes. You just have to be in a good draw sometimes, with the weather and everything, and have concentration throughout. I felt like everything worked out last year. Winning is something like that. It’s not that you plan out to win, but you give your best and sometimes winning is given.”
Kim earned last year’s victory by going 21 under par at 263, four shots ahead of Lexi Thompson.
“I’ve had one of the lowest rounds on this golf course,” Kim said, referring to last year’s final-round 63, two shots off Paula Creamer’s course-record 61. “But it is still a challenge. That’s how I felt last week, defending my title (at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she finished tied for 17th). … It’ll be my second time defending this year, so hopefully I will manage a little bit better.”
Kim’s 2017 Marathon Classic win came a month after her ShopRite win. The next month brought her a major title for the first time among her seven career victories, as she took the Women’s British Open.
She said winning at Highland Meadows “absolutely” gave her momentum going forward toward the major tournament.
“I felt like it was giving me the confidence to go and just keep playing how I was playing,” she said.
Kim finished 2017 with her best season since her rookie year of 2007, finishing 12th on the tour money list with $1,227,674. So far this year, she’s 33rd in earnings with $275,926 after having played nine events.
When she next returns to Highland Meadows, she’ll well know a good part of what she’ll need to do to reclaim the $240,000 winner’s share of the $1.6 million purse.
“I think you have to be very accurate,” she said. “At the same time, you have to play very aggressively because there are a lot of opportunities.”
SPONSOR’S EXEMPTIONS: Two NCAA Division I champions of this past season are among the recipients of three sponsor’s exemptions into this year’s Marathon Classic.
Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest University received an exemption after winning the NCAA individual championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Also gaining an exemption was Bianca Pagdanganan, who led the University of Arizona to the team title.
Receiving the third exemption was Jillian Hollis of Rocky River, who was All-America twice at the University of Georgia and finished 62nd when making her pro debut two week ago at the U.S. Women’s Open.