U.S. Women's Open Champion Allisen Corpuz Ready to Shine at The ANNIKA

U.S. Women's Open Champion Allisen Corpuz Ready to Shine at The ANNIKA

By Jeff Babineau


BELLEAIR, Fla. – A coastal hurricane stole a round from last year’s LPGA’s Pelican’s Women’s Championship, shortening the event to 54 holes. It was another force of nature, a rookie named Allisen Corpuz, who served up a surprise by shooting a pair of early 65s at Pelican Golf Club to take a one-shot lead into the final round.


Corpuz, who was pleased that she wasn’t scrambling to keep her card that late into her first season, did not win on Sunday a year ago. A more seasoned player, Nelly Korda, stepped up to capture the tournament, closing with a round of 64. But it’s fair to say that if Corpuz again takes a lead into Sunday at Pelican later this week, it will no longer be much of a surprise. To anyone. Certainly not Corpuz.


Corpuz, 25, not only captured her first LPGA victory earlier this summer, but did so in style, winning the. U.S. Women’s Open on perhaps its grandest stage to date, Pebble Beach Golf Links. She was nervous down the stretch, as any player trying to close out his or her first major would expect to be. But she just kept hitting quality shots. She birdied 14, a par 5 that requires a player be exact with an approach. She birdied 15. By the time she was walking toward the 18th green, her lead was three shots and she could enjoy the surrounds. She was on the verge of history.


Now, Corpuz turns her attention to a strong finish to her sophomore season on the LPGA. She is one of 10 players from the top 11 ranked players in the world – Corpuz ranks 11th – who will compete starting Thursday in a championship at Pelican that has a fresh new name: The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. The tournament for the first time will operate with Annika Sorenstam, a 72-time LPGA winner, 10-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member, involved at the top of it.


Sorenstam has done so much in her career, and the tournament now benefits The ANNIKA Foundation, close to her heart. But it takes lots of work, and she’s never been one to shy away from hard work.


“I think collectively our goal is, it's all about the experiences,” said Sorenstam, who retired from full-time competition in 2008. “We have a little saying within our company, it's either inspirational or experiences, and I think that that's really what we're looking for.


“The venue (Pelican Golf Club) is fantastic, the people are great. I just want people to walk away with like, I want to do this again; I want to be part of it, whether it's the community, the players, the sponsors, organizers. They do a lot of tournaments out there. We know there are 30, 35, 40 tournaments a year, but how can you stand out, and it's the experiences, the memories that you walk away with ...”


After playing at The Annika, Corpuz will be traveling down Florida’s west coast to Naples and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship next week. She finished third a year ago at Pelican and tied for 17th a year ago at Tiburon Golf Club. There is yet one more significant Florida start on her schedule. Corpuz will be competing at the Grant Thornton Invitational, which, like the CME, will take place at Tiburon, in Naples. It’s a first-time event that will pair LPGA players with PGA Tour pros. She is playing with long-hitting Cameron Champ.


“Having the opportunity to play with the men, alongside them, that's a really fantastic opportunity,” said Corpuz, who grew up in Hawaii and used to attend the PGA Tour’s Sony Open with her dad. “I mean, I watch a lot more golf now that I turned pro and don't have school to worry about. Yeah, I’m really excited to see their games up close.”


Coming into The ANNIKA, Corpuz won’t be able to operate “under the radar” as much as she did a year ago, when she was a rookie just trying to find her way. Now a major champion, Corpuz is fine with that. Life is different as the U.S. Women’s Open champion, as it should be. In September, she played in her first Solheim Cup. She ranks ninth in the Race to the CME Globe standings, and her robust $2 million payday at Pebble Beach has her atop the season’s earnings list, just north of $3 million. She purchased a new car earlier this year, but other than that, really has yet to spoil herself.


Mainly her payoff arrived in having more of a foothold on feeling that she belongs, and can compete at the highest level.


“It kind of feels like I’ve just been really busy since then, but it’s definitely starting to sink in more,” Corpuz said last week. “I think the more I hear from other people, you know, like how much fun they had watching me on TV, just having Pebble Beach hosting a women’s tournament, I think it just becomes more special the more I hear it.”


Corpuz had a terrific year in the majors. In addition to her U.S. Women’s Open victory, she tied for fourth at Chevron; tied for sixth at the AIG Women’s Open and was T15 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. How did she make such a jump?


“I think this year was a lot of mental work honestly,” she said. “I mean, my rookie year was more just getting comfortable, learning what a tournament week looks like, just figuring out the whole scheduling, especially trying to reshuffle (for better status) higher early on in the season.


“I played a five-week stretch last year and I remember being exhausted at the end of that, so coming into the year having a better expectation of what it would look like, what's better for me as far as like how many tournaments am I going to play in a row, where are the courses that I enjoyed playing at last year. Just having that experience in my rookie year helped a lot. Just coming out and telling myself that I'm good enough to compete ... I've been playing well and, yeah, been working hard. I think that was the biggest game-changer for me.”


Everything will be elevated at this week’s The Annika. It marks the first time since Lorena Ochoa played host to the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico that an LPGA player, a legendary one at that, has her name atop the marquee. The field is very strong, with eight players having held the No. 1 spot at one time in the Rolex Rankings. The purse has been bumped to $3.25 million, which is the highest of any non-major event on the LPGA. And history is on the line as Nelly Korda guns for her third consecutive title at Pelican. Not since Inbee Park in 2015 has a player won the same event three consecutive times.


For Corpuz, all of that would make it a fun event to sit back and watch. There is one glitch. Come Sunday, she plans to be standing right in the middle of it.


(Daily digital grounds tickets begin on Wednesday and are available for purchase at TheAnnika.com.)


November 6, 2023
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