At Lydia Ko’s Drive On press conference, a junior reporter stole the show

The first question Lydia Ko fielded during a pre-tournament press conference for the LPGA Drive On Championship came from 14-year-old junior reporter Claire Hollingsworth. The ninth grader had just competed in the Tennessee State High School Championship and realized that she needed more distance.

What advice would Ko give, she asked, to a petite player looking to get stronger?

It’s a fitting question given Ko’s recent efforts to pack on muscle. The 15-time LPGA winner’s lengthy answer included a shout-out to 5-foot-1-inch Mo Martin, who won a major and goes by the nickname “Mighty Mo.” Ko also noted that she’ll be competing alongside Lexi Thompson and Austin Ernst in the first two rounds of this week’s event, and that she’ll be the first to hit on every approach shot.

“If you play within your strengths,” Ko told her, “you’re still able to compete at a very high level.”

Ko headlined this interview session, but Hollingsworth stole the show. Earlier on Wednesday the LPGA rolled out its latest Drive On spot starring Hollingsworth, an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf participant.

The powerful 30-second spot is narrated by Hollingsworth, who says that two days after she was born in China, she was left outside an orphanage in a small wooden box. Nine months later she was adopted by an American family that happened to love golf. She has an important story to tell.

“I may be small,” said the 4-foot-9-inch teen, “but I am mighty.”

Last year Hollingsworth went to China with her family and visited the orphanage she came from in the Hunan province. The family donated box fans because the building still doesn’t have air-conditioning.

“They turned it into a special-needs home,” she said, “and that was really nice to see.”

A young Claire Hollingsworth (courtesy LPGA)

With the LPGA’s fall Asian swing canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour scheduled a second Drive On tournament to help fill a five-week gap. The tournament, held over the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee, has a field of 108 players and a purse of $1.3 million.

The first Drive On event, held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, in July and won by Danielle Kang, ended a 166-day break in competition for the LPGA. Money from a number of sponsors who weren’t able to host events, in addition to funds from the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, were put together to make these crucial events happen.

Lydia Ko poses with The Robert Cox trophy after winning the 2012 U. S. Women’s Amateur Championship at The Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio. (Golfweek/Tracy Wilcox)

The tournament’s Drive On title highlights the LPGA’s commercial campaign that tells the stories of grit, determination and inspiration on the women’s tour. Haley Moore, Mariah Stackhouse and Gerina Piller are among those who have been featured. Hollingsworth is the first golfer to be part of the series who isn’t a member of the tour.

Ko, 23, was born in South Korea but grew up in New Zealand and now lives in the United States. Even though she enjoyed unprecedented success as a teenager, Ko said that like any other girl her age, she had insecurities.

“I feel like I was very fortunate to be involved with two amazing cultures, and now three cultures being here in the U.S., but I think outside of all that, as a teenage girl or in your young teens, you all feel insecure about a few things,” she said. “Like, man, I don’t belong at times, or I wish I had this, and I don’t. Other people just look bigger and better than you.

“Yes, I’ve definitely been in that position before. I think the more time that went by and the more time I kind of got to spend on tour with the other ladies, I think I was just able to embrace – I’m still in the learning process – but be able to kind of understand and embrace myself. No one is perfect. All you can do is be the best version of yourself and that’s it and have fun during that process.”

It’s a message that’s bigger than awards and titles. Events like Drive On and 70 years of LPGA golf have given so many women the platform to pass it on.

Mighty Claire is now a part of that legacy.

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