Posted by: happyfan08 | January 11, 2011

2010 Awards (1 of 10): Best Start to the Season

It’s the start of a new year, and that means it’s time once again here at SeoulSisters for the annual round up of the most notable moments of the year just passed.  Yup, it’s time for the 2010 Seoulie Awards!  Over the next few days I’ll be posting the winners and nominees in a bunch of categories.  Let’s get started with our traditional first award:

Best Start to the Season

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park

Inbee Park had a fantastic season in 2010.  When she joined the LPGA tour in 2007, many, including this author, expected big things out of the player who had been so impressive as a junior amateur in the previous few years.  She did not disappoint: in just her second year on tour, she became, at 19 years of age, the youngest winner in history of the US Women’s Open.  But after that win, Park went into a deep funk, and was not a factor on leaderboards for the rest of 2008 and much of 2009.

Inbee Park at the 2010 Kia Classic

Hard work in the 2009-2010 off-season certainly paid dividends, for Park returned with a vengeance in 2010, and she started making noise right in the very first event she played as a full member of the Japanese tour (Park divided her time between the LPGA and JLPGA last year).  In March she played the Daikin Orchid Ladies and tied Jiyai Shin for second place.  Alas, her fellow Korean rookie Sun Ju Ahn was brilliant, winning the event by five shots (see below – she didn’t win this Seoulie award, but she certainly was in the running!).  The next week, Park was again right in the mix for the win in Japan.  At the Yokohama Tire PRGR Ladies Cup, she ended up losing by one shot, thanks entirely to a two shot penalty she received when her ball moved on one of the greens and she didn’t replace it like she should have.  So a second runner-up finish in as many weeks for the young star.

The near misses didn’t stop there!  Later in March, Inbee played at the Kia Classic, the first LPGA event in the States, and notched yet another second place finish, losing by six shots to Hee Kyung Seo.  The following week, she finished tied for 10th at the year’s first Major, the Kraft Nabisco.

The week after that, she was back in Japan, and once again had a real shot at the win.  This time she played well enough to get into a playoff, but lost to Chie Arimura for her third second place finish in as many starts on that tour.

Inbee in Thailand

Was she ever going to get that win?  YES!  For the next week at the Nishijin Ladies Classic, she got into her second straight playoff.  But this time, it was Park who came out on top for her first win on that tour.  But lest she get too cocky, she was back to form at the following week’s event, the Fujisankei Ladies Classic, where she once again finished (you guessed it) second!

In early May, Inbee played in the Salonpas Cup, the JLPGA’s tour first Major.  Wouldn’t you know, it was the first time all year she finished worse than 2nd, with a tie for 15th .  Thus ended the streak, but Inbee still had a phenomenal start to her year, which included 4 seconds and a first on the JLPGA, a second on the LPGA, and a tie for 10th at the LPGA’s first Major of the season.

Honorable Mentions:

Sun Ju Ahn wins her first event as a player on the JLPGA tour

Sun Ju Ahn with one of her four JLPGA trophies from 2010

Sun Ju Ahn was a big star on the KLPGA who joined the Japanese tour as a rookie this season.  She had a sensational year, and got it out to a great start with a five shot win in her very first tournament on the JLPGA, relegating old KLPGA rival Jiyai Shin and Seoulie Award winner Inbee Park to a tie for second place.  It was an omen of even better things to come in 2010.

Song Hee Kim starts season with 8 straight top tens

Song Hee Kim

Song Hee Kim continues to be one of the most impressive female golfers in the world, and 2010 was her best year yet.  She still was unable to find the winner’s circle last year, but she certainly had her chances.  After ending 2009 with two straight top ten finishes, she ripped off eight more in a row to start the 2010 season.  Included in that stretch was a third place at the Kraft Nabisco, the year’s first Major, and a tie for 3rd at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, the event often unofficially dubbed Asia’s Major.

Jennifer Song dominates in first professional event

Jennifer Song won her first career professional event

Jennifer Song, one of the most decorated amateurs of recent years, turned pro in 2010, and it goes without saying that many expect her to become a superstar.  She wasted little time showing what she could do.  In her very first professional event, the Futures Tour’s Tate & Lyle Players Championship, she got better and better as the week progressed, shooting a final round 61 to win by 6.  Her total score tied the 72 hole tour record, and her 9 under par 61 tied for lowest 18 hole score in league history.

Biggest Disappearing Act

And the “Winner” Is: Angela Park

Boy, this is one Seoulie Award no one wants to win, for it goes to the player who has mysteriously disappeared from leaderboards in the past year.  I was tempted to give it to Grace Park, but Grace has struggled with injuries the past several years, and one can only wonder what she could do if she could only get healthy again.  Ha Neul Kim, a multiple winner on the KLPGA, has also had a downturn in her game the past couple of seasons, but at least in 2009 she was still finishing in the top ten on the money list and notching a bunch of top ten finishes.  This year she didn’t even make a single top ten until September.  However, she did manage three top fives late in 2010, and nearly won the first event of the 2011 season, so it might be a bit early to wonder what has happened to her.

Ha Neul Kim has struggled the last couple of seasons

So, I decided to give the award to Angela Park, who continues to search, seemingly in vain, for the magical swing and amazing game she once possessed.  Just look at this almost unbelievable crash in Park’s results over the past few seasons:  in 2007, Angela Park was the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year, beating players like Inbee Park, Eun Hee Ji (both Major winners not too long thereafter), In Kyung Kim and Song Hee Kim (both currently in the top ten in the world in the Rolex rankings).  In 2008, she finished 17th on the money list; she was still looking for her first win, but notched 6 top tens and seemed every bit as strong as before.

Angela Park takes in a soccer game at this year's LPGA event in Brazil

At the start of the 2009 season, Park collected three top tens in her first four tournaments.  But when she got back to action in May, suddenly she started missing cuts left, right and center.  In fact, she only made 3 of her final 11 cuts that year.  It got so bad that Park seriously considered quitting the game entirely.  But she hung in there, and worked in the off-season, trying to return to form.  But there would be no respite for the young star in 2010: she only made two cuts all year, in her first two events of the season.  She made less than $10,000 for the year.

What on Earth has happened to the swing that Johnny Miller once called the best in women’s golf?  Apparently, it’s not an injury issue; rather, Park has started hitting her drives very far to the right.  The bad swings so rattled her that the rest of her game became affected as well.  How bad has it gotten?  In her final ten events of the year (all missed cuts or withdrawals), she broke par only once, but shot over 80 6 times (and in her final two events of 2010, all four rounds were in the 80s).

Will she ever get back to the top, or is she doomed to spend the rest of her career fighting her demons?  Hopefully, 2011 will give her a happier result than her previous 2 years.

Honorable Mentions:

Hee Kyung Seo in Korea

Hee Kyung Seo swept four awards at 2009's KLPGA Awards Show

What a weird final KLPGA season for the Supermodel of the Fairways.  Seo, who had won 6 times and 5 times the two previous years, was not able to win even a single Korean event in 2010.  Especially strange that this should happen, because she had several great finishes outside of Korea, including her win at the Kia Classic in California and fifth place finish at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.  Still, it wasn’t a terrible year for her on the KLPGA: she did finish 6th on the money list with 12 top tens.

So Yeon Ryu

So Yeon Ryu's most recent victory came in China in late 2009

So Yeon Ryu, the other big superstar on the KLPGA tour in 2009, also had a lackluster 2010 season.  She did win the first event of the year, but did not collect another victory all season. It was still a pretty good year for her, with 14 top tens and a 4th place finish on the money list;  but considering her 4 wins of the previous year, definitely a letdown.

Grace Park

Ha Neul Kim

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Responses

  1. I like Na Yeon Choi sir…
    Na Yeon Choi .
    Na Yeon Cheer.
    To Be Number One Na Yeon ….To Be Number One …
    From Someone in Thailand sir……


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