Posted by: happyfan08 | January 18, 2009

2008 Awards: Best Korean Confrontation

Seon Hwa beats Meena at the P & G

Seon Hwa Lee turned pro at the age of 14, the youngest professional to ever play on the Korean LPGA tour.  While on that tour, she had several confrontations with Meena Lee, a player several years her senior, who at the time was among the top players on that tour.  Meena always seemed to get the better of Seon Hwa back then.

 

Flash forward to 2006, and Seon Hwa Lee is now a rookie on the LPGA tour.  In just her second event, she finds herself in contention for the title at the Fields Open.  Who should she end up in a playoff with for the title?  Yep, Meena Lee, now a second year player on tour.  In the end, despite her best efforts, Seon Hwa came up short, and Meena collected her second tour win.

 

In the time since that loss, Seon Hwa Lee blossomed into one of the very best Korean golfers on the LPGA tour (perhaps the very best).  She won the Rookie of the Year award in 2006, capturing a win and several more second places in the process.  She won again in 2007 and once again in 2008.  When she arrived in Arkansas to play the P & G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship, she was having another solid year.

 

Meena Lee during round 2 of the P & G Beauty

Meena Lee during round 2 of the P & G Beauty

After two rounds in this 54 hole event, the lead was held by Seon Hwa’s old nemesis Meena Lee (tied with second year star Eun Hee Ji).  Seon Hwa was a shot back.  Meena had been having a very different career since that Fields Open win in 2006.  The last two LPGA seasons had not been as strong for her as her first two had been, and she had yet to win her third title on tour.  She certainly looked primed to rectify that situation in Arkansas. 

 

As the third round progressed, the leaderboard shifted several times.  Jane Park shot a scintillating 62 to zoom from way back and take the lead.  She held on to that lead for a long time, while players who started much later were unable to knock her off. 

 

The final two groups consisted of Meena-Angela Park-Eun Hee (the last group) and Kristy McPherson-Seon Hwa-Inbee Park (2nd to last).  Inbee did well considering how tired she was (having just won the US Women’s Open the previous week), finishing at 11 under total and a tie for 10th.  JJ and Hee-Won each just missed the top ten, finishing tied for 11th.

 

Among the leaders, Eun Hee and Angela seemed very inconsistent most of the day, leaving the battle between Meena, Seon Hwa and McPherson.  Seon Hwa helped her cause with a chip in eagle on 7 to move into a tie for the lead.  But otherwise, she was making par after par, not really looking like she was ready to win.  McPherson took the lead for a bit, but made a double bogey on the 14th, and was never in the lead again.  Then Meena took the lead at 15 under.  On the 17th, though, she missed the green and could not get up and down and fell back to 14.  Jane was still in it, still tied for the lead! 

 

At about the same time, Seon Hwa hit a superlative approach on the par 5 18th and drained what she thought was a putt to tie, but in fact was to take the lead.  She closed at 15 under, finally eliminating Jane.  Only Meena could still catch Seon Hwa.  When she reached the 18th hole, she left herself a 15 foot birdie putt to tie and force a playoff.  This time, Meena missed and Seon Hwa claimed her fourth career LPGA win and second of the year! No doubt we will be seeing more of this rivalry in years to come!

 

Seon Hwa Lee gets a champagne bath after winning the P & G

Seon Hwa Lee gets a champagne bath after winning the P & G

 

Honorable Mentions:

Mi Jung Hur vs. Vicky Hurst, Louisiana Pelican Classic

It was the coming out party for these two stars.  They had both underperformed in their first two events on tour, but in this tournament, they were both playing well.  Hurst had a four shot lead going into the final round, but Hur roared back, forced a playoff, then beat Hurst for the win.  They would run into each other several more times in 2008, but from now on, it would always be Hurst who got the last laugh.

 

Ji Yai Shin tops He Yong Choi and Sun Ju Ahn, KB Star Tour #4, KLPGA Tour

Ji Yai Shin may be the dominant golfer on the KLPGA, but that doesn’t mean every win she collected was easy.  At the final KB Star Tour, she was going for her third straight Major win of 2008, and an unprecedented calendar year sweep of the Majors on the KLPGA.  She was in great shape going into the final round, holding a three shot lead over the field.  But Rookie of the Year He Yong Choi, charging from well back, refused to give up.  She started the day nine shots behind Shin, but shot a phenomenal 31 on the front nine to cut the gap to four by the turn.  She kept right on coming, eventually shooting a 64 for the day.  How good was that?  Not only was it the best round a rookie had ever shot on the KLPGA tour, it was also five shots better than anyone else achieved on the final day.  Shin somehow hung on and tied Choi by the end of the day.  To add to the intrigue, Sun Ju Ahn, one of Shin’s greatest rivals, also finished tied for the lead, which meant there would be a three way playoff for the Major crown with history on the line.

 

On the first playoff hole, Ahn made a three putt and was eliminated.  On the second playoff hole, Choi was left with a 1.5 meter putt for par to remain in the match.  She missed, and Shin won the title.

 

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