LPGA Tour starts up again in Canada

The LPGA Tour returns from its three-week Olympic hiatus this week with a stop in western Canada. Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club near Calgary is the setting for the Canadian Pacific Women's Open, which gets underway on Thursday.

All eyes will be on defending champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who has won four times this season and has captured this event three times in the past four years. Ko is coming off a silver-medal winning performance in Rio.

Ko says winning an Olympic medal stands alongside the top accomplishments of her career.

“It's definitely one of the highest ones up there,” she said. “I can't take away the two majors I won. Those are very special, winning Evian and ANA Inspiration, but also this one, even though this one is a silver medal, it's just as special. Everything is so different in its own way, but it's definitely one to remember. I think it's just more so the atmosphere and the vibe of the Olympics that I just enjoyed so much.”

Ko is one of 32 Olympians in the field and the only medalist. Gold medalist Inbee Park (South Korea) and bronze medalist Shanshan Feng (China) are bypassing this event.

Eight of the top 10 ranked players in the world are on hand, however, as are the top 10 players on the LPGA money list. The field includes Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who, like Ko, is a four-time winner this season but was forced to withdraw from the Olympic tournament because of an injury.

The list of other Olympians in the field includes Canadians Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp, U.S. Women's Open runnerup Anna Nordqvist (Sweden), Charley Hull (Great Britain), Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Minjee Lee (Australia), Sei Young Kim (South Korea), and Americans Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller.

A total of 17 Canadian players are in the field, four of them amateurs. In the wake of her Olympic experience, Sharp is looking forward to playing the next two weeks in her homeland.

“It's nice to be home right after the Olympics,” she said, “to continue wearing the red and white this week and next week (in Ontario), for two weeks in a row, I can't think of a better way to celebrate being at the Olympics than playing in Canada two weeks in a row.”

Sharp feels the exposure that women's golf received in Rio will increase awareness of the sport.

“Golf was in the Olympics for the first time in over 100 years,” she said, “and we were a part of that. I think a lot more people saw it than normal because everybody watches the Olympics.”