Posted by: happyfan08 | January 21, 2009

2008 Awards: Rookie to Watch

Rookie to Watch in 2009


Each year in these awards, I pick a rookie to watch in the following season.  This is not necessarily the rookie I think will win the Rookie of the Year, but someone who might surprise everyone with how well she will play.  Last year, I picked Na Yeon Choi.  Here’s what I wrote: 



“Among the non-exempt rookies, if Na Yeon Choi concentrates on playing here as opposed to in Korea or on the Futures Tour, she will be a sleeper. She is every bit the top KLPGA player (Hee Young) Park is, and won the Q-School Sectional she played in. She has the chops, but time will tell if she will be able to acclimate herself to tour on a part time basis, as her conditional status will prevent her from setting her own schedule. If she can manage a few early top finishes, that will improve her status, and give her a good shot at a solid rookie campaign.”


I don’t always do a good job as an amateur Nostradamus, but this time I hit the mark exactly.  Choi did in fact do well early in her rookie season, which basically got her into almost any field after that.  She would go on to collect nine top tens, earn over a million dollars, and come achingly close to winning Rookie of the Year.


So who do I pick to watch this year?  Well, the obvious answer is Ji Yai Shin.  Shin has already won three LPGA events before even joining the tour, including a Major.  To put this in perspective, no one in the entire history of the LPGA has ever won more than twice before joining the tour.  Couple that with the fact that Shin just seems to get better and better each year, and you have to think she will not only be the rookie to beat in 2009, she might also be in contention for Player of the Year if the stars align.


Rather than pick the easy out, I’m going to choose another golfer to spotlight: MJ Hur.  Hur started the year in style last year on the Futures Tour, winning in just her third event played.  She had several other good chances to win, but was never able to seal the deal.  But she still put herself into contention a lot, and that bodes well for her future on the LPGA.  She will still be a very young golfer next year as a rookie, just 19, but if she can figure out how to hold herself together when she gets in contention, she could make a bit of noise in 2009.





MJ Hur holds her trophy from the Louisiana tournament she won

MJ Hur holds her trophy from the Louisiana tournament she won


 The other golfer to mention is Mindy Kim.  Kim was a second year Futures Tour player in 2008, even though she was only 18.  And she had a fantastic year, making more money than anyone in history other than Vicky Hurst, who won the money list title.  Kim won three times in 2008, and if she can keep her confidence up when she joins the LPGA, she might very well contend a few times before the year is out.  We’ll be talking a little more about Mindy next.

 Best New Young Player

Mindy Kim

Every year, this award is bestowed on the player who first burst into the general public eye in the previous calendar year.  This is not necessarily a player who started playing big time golf that year.  We give the award this year to Mindy Kim.




Mindy Kim holds one of her three trophies from the 2008 Futures Tour season

Mindy Kim holds one of her three trophies from the 2008 Futures Tour season



Mindy was born in South Korea, and started playing golf in her hometown of Incheon when she was 6 years old.  She moved to Diamond Bar, California, as a young girl.  She continued her growth as a golfer, playing in many junior tournaments over the years. 


Kim joined the Futures Tour as a 17 year old in 2007.  She had a so so season, making a single top ten and finishing 28th on the money list.  She began to wonder if she had made the right choice turning pro instead of going to college.  But it was still a good learning experience.  When she failed to get her tour card at LPGA Q-School that Fall, she decided to make some changes.  She embarked on a far more intensive training regime, arriving at the golf course at 6:30 AM most days and seldom leaving until dark.  She also decided to replace her dad as her caddie, figuring that they were great as father and daughter but not so much as caddie and golfer.


Her improvement in 2008 was spectacular.  In May, she won her first Futures Tour tournament at the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship.  To prove that was no fluke, she won the very next tournament, the Aurora Health Care Championship.  Three of her next four finishes were top fives as well.  Mindy Kim had truly arrived as a professional.


Kim would go on to collect another win in August, and a total of 11 top tens for the year.  She earned $79,270 in official money, good for second on the money list, and easily earned her LPGA tour card for 2009.  Her money total would have been enough to win the money list title almost any other year, but Korean American superstarlet Vicky Hurst proved too tough in 2008.  Still, all that counts is that she has her card.


Kim believes she may still not be quite ready to play the LPGA tour; for one thing, she wants to work on her ability to close, because especially in her first two wins, she built big leads only to struggle in the final round.  But if she keeps working as hard this winter as she has been the past few years, she might just surprise herself in the new year!



  1. Hey! I think M.J. Hur was a good choice! Let’s see if she can make a really big impact and go for the two-fer!

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