LPGA’s return to Bay Area will feature elite field 

click to enlarge Lydia Ko
  • Eric Risberg/ap
  • Teenager Lydia Ko competes in a skills competition during media day for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club.
As the LPGA makes its return to the Bay Area next month, Lake Merced Golf Club was treated to a rare sight Monday: a handful of Taiwanese men roaming the course in kilts.

It’s all part of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, which will hold its inaugural tournament April 24-27 at Lake Merced. The kilt-clad gentlemen were on hand representing Taiwan, which is the home of the Swinging Skirts nonprofit organization. The organization is made up of both male and female golfers promoting women’s golf globally.

Already the event has verbal commitments from each of the Top 10 players in the world rankings.

“There are not many tournaments outside of the majors to boast the top 10 players in the world, and we are proud to welcome one of the strongest fields on tour to Lake Merced Golf Club here in April,” said Johnson Wang, chairman of the Swinging Skirts golf team.

Making a return to the site of some recent success is Lydia Ko, who made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in 2012 at Lake Merced. It has been a whirlwind for Ko since then, who last fall got an exception from the LPGA commissioner to turn pro at just 16 years old instead of the age requirement of 18.

Helping to make that leap was her status as the youngest winner of a professional golf tour event when she won the New South Wales Open in 2012.

“It’s been great,” Ko said of the transition. “I’ve played well the last couple of tournaments, which has definitely helped with my confidence. There were a lot of doubts now and then with all the changes and stuff, but playing good helped me through that progress.”

With her mom traveling with her to all her tournaments, she has already made a splash on the LPGA Tour, rising to No. 4 in the world rankings thanks to Top-10 finishes in three of the four events she has played this season.

For several of the tour’s top golfers, the return of the LPGA to the Bay Area for the first time since 2010 is long overdue.

Citrus Heights native Natalie Gulbis said having a chance to play in her home state made this a tournament she didn’t want to miss.

“I was so excited to have an event back in Northern California,” she said. “When it got announced to us in the fall, it was the first event I called back.

“I’m very excited to be back home, and doing a media day where I get to see my mom.”

The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic will feature a field of 144 players, including 120 LPGA golfers, as well as the top 10 players on the Taiwan LPGA Official Money List.

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