Posted by: happyfan08 | January 5, 2015

2014 SeoulSisters Awards (2 of 7): Best Finish, Cinderella

Best Korean Finish

And the Winner Is: The Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

So Yeon Ryu with her trophy from the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

So Yeon Ryu pretty much dominated this one all week, getting out to a big lead and shattering records left and right. It became more interesting when, on the back nine on Sunday, she started to struggle and Na Yeon Choi made a charge at her. But Ryu managed to make a crucial late birdie to hold off her friend and claim the title. NYC finished second, with world #2 Inbee Park third.

Other Nominees: Portland Classic

The Koreans didn’t actually win this one, but they sure dominated the leaderboard. Unlikely American champion Austin Ernst charged up the leaderboard in the final round and looked like she had the win locked up, but made two bogies to finish her day. That dropped her into a tie for the lead with So Yeon Ryu and In Kyung Kim, and MJ Hur and Chella Choi were also within  shouting distance.

In the end, Ernst won a playoff with IK Kim. So Yeon Ryu just missed the playoff by hitting her approach on the final hole into the water. Chella Choi was also tied for third, and Na Yeon Choi and Eun Hee Ji were tied for 5th. MJ Hur finished tied for 9th.

The Evian Championship

Hyo Joo Kim beat Karrie Webb with a super clutch birdie on the final hole. MJ Hur was again in contention but wound up tied for third. Ha Na Jang also had a shot, but two late mistakes relegated her to T-3rd as well. And Na Yeon Choi finished fifth.

KEB Hana Bank Championship

Two KLPGA stars – In Gee Chun and Kyu Jung Baek – slugged it out with Brittany Lincicome in the playoff (Baek won). Inbee Park was one putt away from joining them. Hyo Joo Kim made a nice run for a top ten as well.

Cinderella of the Year

And the Winner Is: MJ Hur, Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic

MJ Hur cried tears of joy after winning her first LPGA event in five years

MJ Hur had a dream return to form in 2014. She had won a tournament in her rookie year of 2009, but in the intervening years had slowly slipped down the rankings. By the time she reached Portland in 2014, five years after her win there (but on a different course), she was all but forgotten.

But amazingly, Hur brought her A+ Game to the tournament, and as she reached the back nine on Sunday, she was right in the hunt. Alas, a couple of big mistakes late dropped her into a tie for 9th, but it was still a really good result for her.

At the next tournament, the Evian Championship, Hur again found herself in the hunt for the win. She came much closer, too, ending up tied for third, by far the best Major finish of her career.

The third time was the charm for MJ. Playing in the next event, the Yokohama Tire Classic in Alabama, Hur shot a first round 64, and played well in the next two rounds to establish a solid lead over the field. To make the event even more magical, she was playing with her father on her bag. But one player threatened to send her home unhappy: world #1 Stacy Lewis. Lewis went on a tear on the front nine on Sunday, nearly catching Hur. Hur responded with some truly great golf, possibly the best of her career. In the end, MJ shot a 66, the same as Lewis, and at long last won her second career LPGA tournament. Almost immediately she broke down in tears as the emotion overwhelmed her. In three magical events she had climbed closer and closer to the win; after two close calls, she finally grabbed the brass ring (or should we say the glass slipper?).

MJ Hur with her long awaited second LPGA trophy

Other Nominees:

Mirim Lee, Meijer Classic

Mirim Lee not only won the Meier Classic for her first career LPGA win, she beat world #2 Inbee Park in a playoff.

Chae Young Yoon, Cheju Samdasoo Masters

Chae Young Yoon waited nine seasons before finally winning a KLPGA tournament

Chae Young Yoon has been a very popular player on the KLPGA tour for nine years. But though she has played well at times during her career, she had never won a tournament; that is, never until last July. At the KLPGA’s Cheju Samdasoo Masters, she found herself in a pitched battle with none other than Inbee Park, as well as two KLPGA golfers. In the end, Park just missed the playoff between the other three. Not long after that, Yoon grabbed her first trophy.

Christina Kim, Lorena Ochoa Invitational

Christina Kim has two LPGA wins to her credit, but had fallen quite far in the past few years, only rarely appearing on leaderboards. Then, all of a sudden, she caught fire in a big way at the LPGA’s second-to-last event of 2014, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She consistently hovered near or in the lead all week, and when it looked like she might stumble, she would make a great save or clutch shot to keep herself in the mix. Eventually win #3 came her way, one of the more unexpected results of the year.

Great Performance that came up short

And the Winner Is: Ha Neul Kim, five runner-up finishes without a win.

Ha Neul Kim takes the ice bucket challenge last summer!

Ha Neul Kim played her final year on the KLPGA in 2014. She had been a top player and KLPGA mainstay since winning the Rookie of the Year in 2007. She was certainly hoping to get at least one win in 2014 to go out in style. But wins kept eluding her, sometimes by the slimmest of margins.

Ha Neul started the year at the end of 2013 with a runner-up finish in China at the Hyundai China Ladies Open. No biggie; she lost to 2013 Player of the Year Ha Na Jang there.

A few months later, she looked poised for a big win at the Doosan Match Play Championship. She outlasted In Gee Chun in the quarterfinals after forcing a playoff with a clutch late birdie. She then beat Yoon Kyung Heo, another player struggling with closing out wins in 2014, in the semis (both of those ladies would get their revenge on Ha Neul later in 2014). So Ha Neul was all set up for her win, playing surprise finalist Sul Ah Yoon. But in the final match, Yoon caught fire with wins on 5, 7, 9 and 10 and won easily, 4 & 3.

Ha Neul Kim during the final match at the Doosan Match Play

The next week, Ha Neul was again in the hunt, this time at the E1 Charity Open. But Heo made a clutch par save late, Ha Neul missed another one, and Heo managed to get the win.

Then came the YTN Volvik Women’s Open. Ha Neul played well, but Jung Min Lee was on fire and cruised to a three shot win.

Finally came the KDB Daewoo Financial Classic, which we talked about in ‘Best Korean Rivalry’. That was the event where Ha Neul lost to In Gee Chun in a playoff after hitting her approach shot into the water.

In total, Ha Neul had five runner-up finishes, but at least she did successfully earn her membership for the Japanese LPGA tour in Q-School. Hopefully she will not have to wait long before she gets her first win over there in 2015!

Other Nominees: Ha Na Jang, Evian

Jang was in contention at the 2014 Evian Championship all the way until the last couple of holes. She missed a short but tricky birdie putt on 17, then made a bogey on the final hole when she had a birdie try from not that far. Had she gone birdie-par, she might have won the tournament.

So Yeon Ryu, Farr + Portland

So Yeon Ryu seems to have more close calls than just about any Korean golfer. This year she had two fairly close near misses. The first one came at the former Jamie Farr event in Toledo. Ryu got into a battle with Lydia Ko, who the previous December had caught and passed Ryu to win the Swinging Skirts in Taiwan. Ko made a birdie on the final par 5 18th hole to take a one shot lead. Ryu needed to match the birdie, but hit a terrible drive into the trees. She punched out, then hit a superlative iron to give herself a five footer for the tie. Alas, she missed the putt.

Ryu had another chance later in the summer at the Portland Classic. Tied with Austin Ernst with two holes to play, she toughed out a par on the 17th. But on the 18th, she hit her drive into a fairway bunker, then dunked her approach from there into greenside water to cost herself any chance of the playoff.

So Yeon Ryu during the final round at the Portland Classic

In Gee Chun, KEB Hana Bank

In Gee Chun at the KEB Hana Bank Championship

Chun had a wonderful week at the LPGA’s only event staged in Korea in 2014. She got off to a weak start in round one, but played well in the next two rounds to put herself in position for a run at the title. On Sunday, she charged into the lead, and battled with Brittany Lincicome most of the day. Once Lincicome posted her score at 10 under, Chun had a few more chances to make a birdie to take the lead, but couldn’t pull it off. On the par 5 18th hole, she had about a ten footer for birdie, but just missed sinking it. Alas, during the playoff with Lincicome and Kyu Jung Baek, she hit her third shot into the drink, ending her chances for the title and an LPGA card.

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