Posted by: happyfan08 | January 16, 2009

2008 Awards: Best Start to the Season

Jane Park

Jane Park’s rookie season of 2007 was not a particularly good one.  She was a non-exempt golfer, and was not able to gain exemption with her play during the year.  So she went to Qualifying School at the end of the year, and once there, unleashed the talented golfer we all knew was inside.  Over five days, she led or held a share of the lead pretty much the whole time, and easily collected medalist honors and her first exempt card on tour.  So, now that she was an exempt golfer on the LPGA, how long would it take her to make a mark?




As it turned out, not long at all!  In the very first event of the season, the SBS Open, Jane found herself in contention for the title with none other than Annika Sorenstam.  Sorenstam had not won an event in over a year and was hungry for the victory, but Park refused to give an inch.  Her biggest highlight came on the 15th hole, where she sunk an impossibly long birdie putt to move to 8 under and a tie with Sorenstam.  But at that point, Annika turned on the jets, made two birdies in the next three holes and took the title.  But in just her first event as an fully exempt player, Jane collected an impressive tie for second, her best ever tour result.


It did not take Jane long to put herself in contention again.  After missing the cut in her next start, she traveled to Mexico to play in the MasterCard Classic.  After two rounds, Jane was seven shots behind leader Ji Young Oh, a second year player who was herself looking for her first career win.  But Oh stumbled badly on the final day, and Jane moved into position to take the title.  She might have grabbed it, too, but an unheralded rookie named Louise Friberg shot an improbable 65 to come from 10 shots back to take the trophy.  Friberg’s move tied for the largest come from behind victory in LPGA history.  Jane had nothing to complain about, though; her 4 under total gave her a tie for third, her second top three finish in three starts.


Jane cooled off after that, not collecting her next top five until June.  However, her start was doubtless one of the hottest among the Korean players on tour in 2008.


Honorable Mentions:

Ji Yai Shin: She started the year by teaming with Eun Hee Ji for a second place finish at the Women’s World Cup in South Africa.  She then played in Australia, where she looked all but certain to claim the Australia Women’s Open until Karrie Webb made a massive run to tie her, then beat her in the playoff.  She next notched another top ten at the ANZ Ladies Masters, a top ten at the SBS Open, and another at the HSBC Ladies Masters.  In March, she also claimed her first win on the JLPGA tour.  In just two and a half months, she collected top tens on four different continents.


Vicky Hurst, Futures Tour

Hurst turned pro at the end of 2007 and joined the Futures Tour.  Her first two events were somewhat mediocre, but in just her third start, she set herself up for a win by taking a four shot lead by the end of the second round.  Korean star MJ Hur had other ideas, however, and roared back to beat Vicky in a playoff.  Not to worry:  the very next week, Hurst took a two shot lead over Hur, and this time it was Vicky who collected the trophy.  In the process, Vicky became the youngest professional to win a professional tournament in American history, breaking the record set by Song Hee Kim the previous year.  Vicky would go on to collect wins in three of the next four events she entered, easily claiming her LPGA tour card for 2009.


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