And the winners are: the KLPGA Golfers
The ladies on the KLPGA tour have become known as much for their fashion sense as their talent. Whether it is stars like Ha Neul Kim, Soo Jin Yang or Char Young Kim, or lesser known players like Yu Na Park, the ladies of that tour seem to have an endless supply of sartorial surprises up their sleeves (when they are wearing outfits that even have sleeves!). Below are a few notable looks from the 2012 season!
Ha Neul Kim has been one of the fashion stars on the KLPGA since joining the tour in 2007. This green spotted shirt really stood out among her many noteworthy outfits in 2012.
Nobody does trophy chic like Ha Neul!
Ha Neul rocks an American-flag-motif outfit. Which is odd considering she’s Korean, but it still looks snazzy!
Chae Young Yoon won the Best Dresser award in 2012. This is an award voted on by the fans in Korea.
Char Young Kim won the Most Popular award in 2012, another fan-voted award. She gets a lot of love from the press, too. Here’s a striking photo from one of her many golf magazine photo shoots.
On the course, Kim favors simpler outfits. Here’s a good example of what she brings to the table.
Soo Jin Yang is the budding artist with a love of bright colors. Pink is her favorite. This outfit could be called ’50 shades of pink’.
Hyun Hee ‘Honey’ Moon is always a fashion standout on tour. Love the hoodie!
Mirim Lee won the Korean Women’s Open in 2012. This striped shirt looks great on her.
Don’t forget the graduates! So Yeon Ryu left the KLPGA to play full-time overseas in 2012, but returned in time to win her 8th KLPGA event.
Hee Kyung Seo is another former KLPGA superstar who played in Korea a couple of times in 2012. I call this photo, ‘Get me to the Green on Time’.
Yu Na Park is an up and comer on tour, but shows that even the lesser known KLPGAers like to look good on the course.
Most Touching Moment
And the Winner Is: Grace Park and Mi Hyun Kim Retire
The 2012 season saw the retirement of not one but two of the most important Korean golfers in the Seoul Sister Era. Besides the Hall-of-Famer Se Ri Pak, the two most significant golfers in the early days were undoubtedly Mi Hyun Kim and Grace Park. Both ladies called it a career in 2012, but their influence on the tour will not soon be forgotten.
Grace Park was once upon a time on her way to being the second greatest Korean golfer of all time. She had a sterling amateur career in the late nineties, winning just about every important event and accolade she could win. Once she turned pro, she trounced the Futures Tour to easily earn an LPGA card, then joined the big tour in 2000. Amazingly, it took her a couple of years to really hit her stride, but once she did, the top finishes came fast and furious. In 2002, she finished 6th on the money list. She moved up to 3rd in 2003 and 2nd in 2004. She accumulated 6 wins in total including one Major.
But just as quickly as her superstar days began, the injuries hit her, and for the rest of her career, she struggled to even stay healthy enough to compete. She never again won an event after 2004, and rarely even managed top ten finishes. Entire seasons were lost to physical setbacks.
Finally, in 2011, she felt as though she was healthy enough to give it one more run. But though the flesh was willing, she no longer had it in her to play golf at the level that once was so easy for her. And so, she decided early in 2012 to call it quits. She made it official at the LPGA Championship, which became the final event of her illustrious career. Freed from the weekly grind of golf, she married her longtime sweetheart in November of last year and retired to Korea after that.
Mi Hyun Kim was perhaps the most unlikely star of her generation. Barely five feet tall, she was never going to win long drive contests. She also had an extremely unorthodox swing, with the club practically pointing straight down at the top of her swing motion.
But Kimmie was all heart, and it was fire and fantastic short game that allowed her to win eight LPGA tournaments during her career. She never had the great highs Pak or Park had, never won a Major, but she was consistent longer than Grace, and had 106 top tens in her career, more than just about any Korean golfer in history other than Se Ri herself.
Perhaps the most memorable moment in Kim’s career came after her final LPGA win at the SemGroup Championship in 2007. The week before, the nearby town of Greensburg, Kansas, had been hit by a category 5 tornado and almost completely wiped out. Kim donated half her winner’s check, $100,000, to help the town recover. She had never been to that town, nor knew anyone who lived there. She just thought it was the right thing to do. It was a glimpse into the generous spirit of the quiet Kim that especially stunned those in America who barely knew her despite her success here.
Kim’s final event was the Hana Bank tournament in her home country. The injuries she had were still so bad that she could not play well at all, but the sponsors gave her one last exemption to allow her to play in front of the home fans one last time. Now that she is retired, she will be dedicating her time to raising her young son and running a chain of Mi Hyun Kim golf centers, in the hopes of nurturing the next generation of Korean talent.
We’ll miss you, Grace and Mi Hyun! Good luck in your future endeavors!
In Kyung Kim becomes Special Olympics Ambassador, donates other half of her Ochoa check to that charity. (June at time of ShopRite)
When IK Kim won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2010, she vowed to give her entire winner’s check to charity. She gave half of it to Ochoa’s charity, and in 2012 finally decided where to give the other half: the Special Olympics. But she intended to do more than just give money. She has been appointed a Special Ambassador by Special Olympics, and will be involved in all sorts of activities involved with the charity, including appearing at the organization’s international competition when it takes place in Korea in 2013. Congratulations again to IK for continuing to be an amazing role model both on and off the course!
And the Winner Is: Lydia Ko
This was a season where two phenomenal ethnic Korean teenage amateurs (one from Korea, the other from New Zealand) set record after record on the golf course. Picking between them to choose the better one is not exactly easy, but in the end, Lydia Ko had the higher highs, and so wins our award as the Best Teen golfer of 2012.
The 14-year-old Ko started the year as the world’s top female amateur, and by the end of the year, she was even more decisively the top amateur than she had been at the start. It didn’t take her long to make her mark in 2012. In late January, she became the first New Zealander in more than 20 years to win the Australian Match Play Amateur Championship. A week later, she played the New South Wales Open, a professional event on the ALPG tour. She had nearly won this event the previous year, but a final-hole three-putt cost her the title. No such problem in 2012: after blowing away the field in round 2, she cruised to an easy win, becoming the youngest person in history to win a professional event, male or female. Amazingly, her record did not even last the year, as a Canadian girl two days her junior won a two round professional event on the Canadian Tour a few months later. Still, what Ko had done was a foreshadowing of things to come.
She played a few more professional events after that, including her first LPGA event, the Australian Women’s Open, where she finished a respectable tied for 19th.
In the summer, she traveled to the US and finished as the low amateur at the US Women’s Open. After that, she lost in the semifinals of the US Girls Junior championship, but followed that with a win at the US Women’s Amateur, arguably the most important amateur event in the world. She was the second youngest to ever take that title.
Just two weeks later, Ko made more history when she held off a field of LPGA superstars to win the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Vancouver. Her victory made her not only the youngest by more than a year to ever win on the LPGA tour, but also the first amateur to claim a pro title since Joanne Carner in 1969.
A few weeks after that, Ko was the low amateur at the British Women’s Open. She then concluded her amazing summer by smoking the field at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey. She won the individual honor there, beating the second place golfers by six shots.
Hyo Joo Kim
See ‘Best Breakthrough’ for more information about Kim’s amazing 2012 season.
In almost any other year, what Hyo Joo Kim accomplished in 2012 would have easily swept her to the honor of Top Teen, but this year, Lydia Ko was just a little better and a little younger. Still, check out the things she did that elevated her to the status of the Next Big Thing in Korean Golf:
- In April, she dominated the KLPGA’s Lotte Open, beating a field of KLPGA pros by nine shots. It was one of the most impressive wins ever achieved by an amateur on the KLPGA.
- The next week, she played the Lotte Championship on the LPGA tour and finished 12th.
- In May, she notched a fifth place finish at another KLPGA event.
- In June, she shot a final round 61 to come from behind and win the Suntory Ladies Open on the JLPGA tour. She was the youngest player to ever win on that tour, breaking Japanese legend Ai Miyazato’s record.
- In July, she finished fourth at the Evian Masters on the LPGA tour. Had she won, she would have been the first amateur to ever have won events on four different professional tours (the Evian is a joint LET/LPGA event).
- In August, she finished medalist at the US Amateur in the stroke play portion, beating even match play champ Lydia Ko. But she lost in the second round of match play.
- In late September, Kim led the Korean team to the title at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. It was the first back-to-back titles for a country in ages. Kim finished fourth in the individual standings, although she was tied for first with Ko after two rounds before Ko stepped on the gas to win by six.
- Kim also won a pro event on the Taiwan LPGA sometime before turning pro.
- Kim turned pro in October; her first pro event was the KEB Hana Bank Championship, which was also Mi Hyun Kim’s final event. Hyo Joo finished tied for 25th.
- In December, Kim finished in the top 15 at the Swinging Skirts event in Taiwan, beating Ko.
- A few weeks after that, Kim won her first KLPGA event as a tour member when she captured the Hyundai China Ladies Open. It was her fourth pro win of 2012.
Best Hot Streak
And the Winner Is: Inbee Park 10 straight top tens
See also ‘Great Performance that came up short’ for more details about Park’s great run.
When Inbee Park caught fire in June of last year, no one else in golf was hotter. She started her streak of ten straight top tens at the LPGA Championship with a tie for 9th. Before that week, she had not managed even a single top ten in her first nine starts of 2012. In her next nine starts, she only finished outside the top 4 once. She grabbed two wins, four seconds, a third and a fourth. She finally missed the top ten with a 15th place finish in Korea in late October, four months after her streak had started. During the stretch, she made over $1.8 million. To put this in perspective, only a handful of Korean golfers have ever earned more than that in an entire season.