May 12, 2023by - San Francisco Public Golf Alliance
The LPGA’s Hanwha LifePlus International Crown, a unique team match play tournament featuring four-player teams from the world’s eight top-ranked golfing countries, was contested last week over San Francisco’s scenic Harding Park links. Teams from the United States, Japan, England, Sweden, Thailand, Australia and China including seven of the world’s top 10 players led their teams in the competition. Among them Nelly Korda (#1, US), Jin Young Ko (#3, S. Korea), Lilia Vu (#4, US), Atthaya Thitikul (#5, Thailand), Lexi Thompson (#7, US), and Hyuo-Joo Kim (#9, S. Korea), and Minjee Lee (#6, Australia), who won the USGA Junior Girls Championship at Lake Merced in 2012.
Tournament sponsor Hanwha LifePlus is a Seoul-based insurance and financial services company, part of the diverse South Korean manufacturing and commercial Hanwha conglomerate.
6th seeded Thailand won with a dominating performance:
"It was an impressive performance from the Thailand Team on Sunday afternoon at the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown as they charged to a dominant victory over Australia, sweeping all three finals matches to emerge victorious for the first time in the history of the competition. Winning just 10 total matches in their first three appearances at the International Crown, Thailand went 11-for-12 in the 2023 edition of the event, led by MVP award winner Ariya Jutanugarn, who chipped in on the final hole to solidify the victory for her country."
Harding Park's storied 16th played as the International Crown's 12th hole for match play.
This was the first appearance of an LPGA event at scenic Harding Park. Over the past decade, San Francisco and Northern California have emerged as world centers of women’s professional golf – hosting the US Women’s Open at Olympic Club in 2021, and the LPGA Swinging Skirts and Mediheal championships at Lake Merced between 2014 and 2019. The 2023 USGA Women’s Open will be played July 5-9 at Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula.
World Number 1 Nelly Korda tees off on Harding Park's signature hole
The golfing world took note of this exciting event at our local municipal gem:
"Dominant doesn’t do justice in describing the performance of Team Thailand at this week’s Hanwha LifePlus International Crown, capped fittingly by a 3-0 sweep of Australia in Sunday afternoon’s finals at TPC Harding Park. Over four days, the foursome of Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit and sisters Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn made a litany of history as the team match-play event returned to the LPGA schedule for the first time in five years. They were the first team to sweep pool play. Their 11 collective wins (out of 12 overall matches) was the most of any country in any of the three previous editions of the event... The Thai quartet credited the bond formed throughout the week in providing a bedrock of confidence to win the Crown. It's another seminal moment for the country in terms of its golf ascendance, the players proving they belong alongside the rest of the world on an international stage. Tavatanakit says the victory will add more momentum to the growing popularity of the sport at home."
"The International Crown might be the most unique tournament in professional golf. The format is that good. But there are still a few tweaks that could help the event reach its full potential. First and foremost, the LPGA Tour needs to get its schedule sorted out ASAP, as the International Crown is completely lost within a busy period on the calendar. The top players in the world had their hands full with the Chevron Championship and LA Championship the last couple of weeks. This logjam effectively relegated the International Crown, which should be one of the highlights of the year, to “just another week” status... But these are small tweaks to a winning format. This event is phenomenal. It deserves every chance to become a big deal."
"When a player represents their country, the play often reaches heights that far exceed what is seen in individual events. Take the International Crown, for example – the two teams that reached the finals, Thailand and Australia, came into the week ranked sixth and seventh out of eight teams. Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Patty Tavatanakit and Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand were newly-minted champions by Sunday evening. It’s a perfect example of how playing as part of a team or for a cause bigger than ourselves, such as our country, raises the stakes."
"TPC Harding Park always seems to turn the major professional events it hosts into a match-play showdowns. That legacy will only grow with the 2023 LPGA Hanwha Lifeplus International Crown on tap for May 4-7 at the "super muni" run by San Francisco Recreation and Parks. Isn't it time to give TPC Harding Park its due? It's arguably the king of all public courses when it comes to match play... TPC Harding Park has a nearly two-decade history of hosting prestigious events since its major rebirth following a restoration/renovation in 2002-03. That pedigree includes two designated match play events and two that became match play duels of sorts."
Despite some cold, wet, and windy weather for the early rounds, it proved to be a great event at a great venue and served as a counterpoint to negative recent portrayals of San Francisco in the national media. City leadership should take note and give these events the promotion and attention they deserve.