Posted by: happyfan08 | January 3, 2014

2013 SeoulSisters Awards (2 of 6): Welcome Back, KLPGA Awards

Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner Is: In Gee Chun vs. Hyo Joo Kim all year

In Gee Chun vs. Hyo Joo Kim was the best yearlong Korean battle on any tour

Fans of the KLPGA tour were treated to a fantastic battle for Rookie of the Year on that tour in 2013, as two players jockeyed week after week for control of that title.  What made it all the more fun is, it didn’t look like it would be that way at the start of the season.  Coming into the year, Hyo Joo Kim had all the hype behind her.  She had just turned pro and signed the biggest rookie endorsement deal since Se Ri Pak.  Everyone expected her to win the Rookie of the Year, and in the end, that’s exactly what she did.  But she sure had to earn it, thanks to another teen and former national squad teammate of Kim’s named In Gee Chun.

At first, everything went Kim’s way.  She won the 2012 Hyundai China Ladies Open, only her second start as a rookie on tour.  Hyo Joo kept up the barrage early in the season, nearly winning the EDaily before a chip in by Mirim Lee allowed her to take it.  By late May, Kim had nearly double the rookie points Chun had.

Hyo Joo Kim wore a funny hat and still won her first KLPGA title as a member in late 2012

But then Chun had her breakout event at the Doosan Match Play.  She made it all the way to the final, where she duked it out with Ha Na Jang all day.  It was not until hole 16 where, all square, Chun hit a long birdie putt too hard and missed the par to go one down.  She wound up losing 2 down to Jang.  But the second place finish ignited her career and started her climb up the rookie standings.

In Gee Chun jump started her year at the Doosan Match Play

Hyo Joo looked poised to win the E1 Charity Open, but Bo Kyung Kim, who had not won in five years, somehow outlasted the rookie star.  Still, the second place finish (compared to 16th for Chun) allowed her to gain back some of her rookie race lead.

In late June, the KLPGA played the year’s first Major and most important tournament, the Korean Women’s Open.  The final round featured a final group pairing of three teen stars: Kyu Jung Baek, Chun and Kim.  Chun stared down Kim, who finished sixth, then ripped off four birdies in the final four holes to catch the leader So Yeon Park and grab the trophy.  For the first time all year, Chun was within 100 points of Kim in the Rookie standings, and had moved into the top five in scoring average and money list as well.  Game on!

In Gee in tears after capturing the Korean Women’s Open trophy

Although neither rookie won again in 2013, both players produced some great results as they fought it out for top honors among the newcomers.  Chun was in it almost to the end at the Nefs Masterpiece, but faltered at the last minute and finished tied for 11th .  The next event, Kim nearly won, finishing second; but Chun finished 6th to keep her rival close.  At the year’s second Major, Chun was in it until the final hole, when she missed a must-make putt to finish second.  Kim finished 4th.

And so it went, week after week, round after round.  It seemed like each week, Chun had a better total than Kim had had the week before, but Kim was able to do just well enough to maintain her lead.  The gap got as small as 38 points, with the two having over 1500 points each at the time.  But the rivalry finally ended at the year’s penultimate event, the ADT-CAPS.  Paired together with Kim in the first round, Chun began to feel neck pains as the round progressed, and finally had to drop out of the tournament with a neck injury after nine holes.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a season ending injury, and so the great battle ended with Chun unable to continue and Kim winning the Rookie of the Year by default.  Still, every indication is that these two will be rivals with each other for years to come.

Hyo Joo Kim meets the press

In Gee Chun had a great 2013

Honorable Mentions: Hee Kyung Seo vs. Amy Yang, Ha Na Bank

Both players made clutch birdie putts on the final hole to force a playoff with each other, but Amy hit a great approach and drained the birdie to win the event.

Inbee Park vs. So Yeon Ryu, Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

So Yeon had an untimely four putt in the final round to let Inbee Park back into the event.  They wound up in a playoff, which Park won in one hole when Ryu missed the green with her approach.

So Yeon Ryu vs. Sei Young Kim, Hanwha Classic

Ryu had this one in the bag, but on the final ten holes, Kim started dunking eagles from the fairway, including a hole-in-one on the 17th hole.  Ryu lost in a one-hole playoff.

Most Dominating Performance

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park, Kraft Nabisco final round

Inbee Park putts at the Kraft Nabisco

Inbee Park played brilliantly the entire week of the year’s first Major.  After the third round, she was in such a nice position on the leaderboard that only one player, Lizette Salas, was anywhere close to her.  Salas blew up on the very first hole in round 4, however, and from there Inbee sailed to a victory, never seriously worrying about being caught all day.

Honorable Mention: Lydia Ko, final round, CN Canadian Women’s Open

Lydia Ko started the final day of the CN Canadian Women’s Open in a tight battle for the crown with Solheim star Caroline Hedwall and #2 in the world Suzann Pettersen.  But in a matter of a few holes, she had put both those players on ice.  She seemed to be in complete control as she cruised to a dominating 5 shot win.

Cinderella of the Year

And the Winner Is: Il Hee Lee, Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

Il Hee Lee at the LPGA Award show in November. She had a breakout season with her first career win

Il Hee Lee already was having a strong season on the LPGA tour leading up to her first win at the inaugural Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.  Just a few weeks before that event, she chalked up a tie for 3rd at the Kingsmill Championship.  But still, she got her first career win after relatively few times in contention, and so earns the 2013 award for Cinderella of the season.

The Bahamas win was not an easy one.  The rains were so bad that the course was largely underwater as the week started.  The course superintendent was not able to get more than 12 holes playable, so the tournament went with the unique idea of playing three 12-hole rounds for a total of 36 holes for the week.

Il Hee in the Bahamas

Some players had a hard time adjusting.  Inbee Park, already the #1 player in the world thanks to her great play earlier in the season, missed her only cut of the year at this event.  But Lee played well all week.  In the final round she was paired with two Korean stars and thoroughly outdid them.  Perhaps the best moment of her week came on the penultimate hole.  The hole sat right next to the beach, and several players ended up taking their second shots from the sand right next to the ocean.  Lee hit a great drive that just cleared the sand and landed on the fairway, cutting a significant amount of distance off the hole by taking that bold path.  Later she had to deal with a bad squall, left her birdie putt six feet short of the hole, but still nailed a clutch par save when she needed it most.

She played the entire week with an ear-to-ear grin that made it easy to root her on.  Her reward, besides the Rolex watch, was getting drenched not in champagne but in shaving cream.  Which seems appropriate given the title sponsor of the event made that product!  Well done, Il Hee Lee!

Thumbs up from Il Hee after she was shaving creamed following her victory

Honorable Mention: Na Ri Lee wins in Japan (twice!)

Na Ri Lee is far from the top Korean player playing in Japan; she might not even be the top Korean player named Na Ri on that tour.  But she sure played well when it counted in 2013, and benefitted as well from being in the right place at the right time to claim two wins there!  At the Nichirei Ladies in late June, she notched her career best result to date, a tie for second.  A few months later, she topped that by winning the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open when Ai Miyazato made a costly late double bogey.  Luck again played a part in Lee’s second win a few weeks after that.  At the Fujitsu Ladies in October, rain washed out the final round, and Lee, the leader at that point, claimed the trophy without hitting a shot.

Best Comeback

And the Winner Is: Soo Yun Kang wins in Japan

Kangsy is back! Soo Yun in a glam pose from a Korean golf magazine following her win in Japan

In the late nineties, right after Se Ri Pak and Mi Hyun Kim left the KLPGA tour to try their luck in America, the next top player to emerge on that tour was Soo Yun Kang.  She pretty much dominated the events in the early years of the 2000s.  After a few years, she decided to follow Kim and Pak over to America, too, but found duplicating her success on the LPGA tour difficult.  She finally broke through with her only LPGA win in 2005 at the Safeway Classic, but after several years of struggling with injuries, she moved over to the Japanese tour to try her luck there.  She had better results, but still was not able to get a win.

Fast forward to 2013, and Kang was still winless in Japan — until the week of October 13th, when she pulled off the surprise victory at the Stanley Ladies event.  At 37 years of age, she became one of the oldest Koreans to notch a win in some time.  Congratulations to her; it’s never too late to make a comeback!

Honorable Mention: Shi Hyun Ahn notches a top ten in first golf action in two years

Shi Hyun Ahn at the 2013 ADT-CAPS

29-year-old Shi Hyun Ahn has been in the news more for her troubled marriage in the past two years than for her golf.  Two years ago, she met a South-American-Korean television personality who goes by the name of Marco, and sparks flew.  They married late in 2011, and just six months later, Shi Hyun had a daughter, Grace.  Unfortunately, there were also rumors at this time that the marriage was troubled, and at least one publicized incident where the police were called to stop a domestic disturbance that may have involved physical abuse (Ahn later dropped all charges).

Shi Hyun was invited to play at the ADT-CAPS on the KLPGA season in November.  She had not teed it up in a pro event in all of 2012 or 2013.  But she played extremely well, eventually finishing tied for 9th.  Yes, she made a top ten in her first event played in nearly two years.  That was the same score as KLPGA stars Ha Neul Kim and Hyo Joo Kim, and only five strokes out of first place.  She finished ahead of #7 in the world golfer Na Yeon Choi.

In late December, Shi Hyun signed with Sema Marketing Management, the same group that handles Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin among others.  She said that, after her marriage and daughter’s birth, she lost her motivation to work hard enough to maintain her pro career.  But since the top ten at the ADT, she has gained renewed interest in the game, and hopes to restart her career full force in 2014.  We’re all looking forward to it!

The Return of the KLPGA Awards Show

The KLPGA Awards Show did not go away in 2012, but for some reason, the press very lightly covered it compared to past years.  Luckily, in 2013, we once again got to see a lot of photos of this great showcase for the KLPGA stars.  Below are a few of the highlights from this year’s event!

Red Carpet arrivals!

Rookie star In Gee Chun

2013 tour winner Da Na Kim

Two-time KLPGA Money List Queen Ha Neul Kim

LPGA star Hee Young Park

2013 Tour winner Yoon Kyung Heo

2013 KLPGA Player of the Year Ha Na Jang

KLPGA Rookie of the Year Hyo Joo Kim

The ever-kicky KLPGA star Soo Jin Yang

The winners: Hyo Joo Kim for Rookie of the Year

Hyo Joo Kim collects her Rookie of the Year award

Bo Mee Lee made an appearance

Bo Mee Lee

This year, Ha Neul Kim was mostly in the audience…

Ha Neul Kim

… But they did get her onstage to give her lots of flowers for her one win this year

Lotsa flowers!

Ha Na Jang and Hyo Joo Kim were the night’s big winners

Hyo Joo Kim (L) and Ha Na Jang (R)

Ha Na Jang won the Money List, Player of the Year and tied for most wins with Sei Young Kim

Ha Na Jang

Sei Young Kim also won Most Popular, as voted by the fans!

Sei Young Kim

While Soo Jin Yang won the Best Dresser award (another fan choice)

Soo Jin Yang

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