Posted by: happyfan08 | January 18, 2009

2008 Awards: Cinderella of the Year

Sunny Oh

Sunny Oh was, once upon a time, one of the rising young Korean amateurs.  Before turning pro, she played brilliantly at two LPGA events she was invited to play, grabbing top tens in both and contending in one.  She went to college at UNLV, where she was a star player, a two time All American and a five time collegiate winner.  Every sign pointed towards her becoming a solid LPGA pro, and maybe something more.

 

Sunny Oh in 2004

Sunny Oh in 2004

Oh played college golf for two years, then turned pro in 2004.  But things took a big turn for the worse later that same year, when a truck rear ended her car in Las Vegas.  She was left with a lower back injury and right ankle injury that required surgery.  She spent much of the next four years trying to cope with the injuries and the way they had affected her game.  Her distance off the tee had been greatly reduced, and she frequently had to deal with pain.  In four seasons on the Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, she had not been able to make so much as a single top ten.

 

Finally, she decided to take half a season off in 2007 in order to rest and recuperate.  She married Clifton Lin, settled in Southern California, and made a vow that she would either play better in 2008 or quit the game and pursue some other goal.

 

She entered the 2008 season full of hope that her game may have returned to its former level.  Indeed, the time off made a huge difference.  In her very first tournament back, the Bright House Networks Open, Oh made herself a factor.  After two rounds, she was only two shots out of the lead.  In the final round, she not only played well, she seemingly had fate on her side, producing two chip ins on the back nine, including one on the final hole to get into a playoff for the title.  On the first playoff hole, Sunny drained a 20 foot birdie putt to defeat fellow Korean Chella Choi and Big Break winner Kim Welch and win the trophy.  It was the first win of her professional career (and the first top ten); but, more importantly, it was an amazing comeback story for a player who had to overcome big odds to even be competitive again.

 

Honorable Mentions

In Kyung Kim, Longs Drugs Challenge

In-Kyung Kim overcame nerves and tough challenges from Angela Stanford (the hottest player on tour at the time), Yani Tseng and Lorena Ochoa to claim her first win at the 2008 Longs Drugs Challenge.  After making a clutch birdie on the 17th hole in the final round to maintain her lead, she secured the win with an unlikely birdie on the 18th, then broke down and cried.  But Inky’s win is hardly a surprise: she had already made top tens in the two previous Majors, and contended after the Longs win for her second victory as well.  She is a Cinderella, but there is every indication she will back up her win with more great golf in years to come.

 

Ji Young Oh, State Farm

After three rounds, the leaders in this event were Michelle Wie and Major winner Yani Tseng.  Ji Young Oh was three shots back, still looking for her first win on the LPGA tour.  But Wie failed to sign her scorecard and was DQed, and Tseng struggled intensely in the final round.  Oh took a two shot lead, screwed up, missed a short par save on 17, and dropped one shot behind Tseng.  Game over?  No, for Tseng bogied 18, then inexplicably lost in a playoff, handing Oh the trophy. 

 

Hee Kyung Seo, KLPGA

Hee Kyung Seo had shown herself to be a promising young talent on the KLPGA, but nothing about her game before this season suggested that she would win six times on the KLPGA in 2008.

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