Posted by: happyfan08 | January 11, 2015

2014 SeoulSisters Awards (6 of 7): Best Amateur and Rookie to Watch

Best Amateur

And the Winner Is: Minjee Lee

See ‘Best Start to the Season’ for details on the great beginning to the year Minjee had.

Minjee Lee

After the start of the year, Minjee focused on professional golf for most of the rest of her amateur career, playing in several Majors in 2014. She missed the cut at the British Open and did not play at the LPGA Championship, but had top 25s in her other three Major starts.

Minjee saved one last grand event in her amateur career. She led the Australian team at the Espirito Santo Women’s World Team Golf Championship in September. In contention all week but not in the lead, she and fellow Korean-Australian amateur star Su Hyun Oh led an explosive charge in the final round. Lee shot a 65 and Oh a 66, and Australia roared from behind to grab its third trophy in the event.

Sisters from down under capture the Espirito Santo Cup! (L to R): Shelly Shin, Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh

The next week, Minjee turned pro and notched a top twenty at the Evian Championship, her first pro start. At the end of the season, she won LPGA Qualifying School (tying with Korean American Alison Lee) and earned her tour card for 2015.

Minjee Lee will be an LPGA Rookie in 2015

Other Nominees: Gyeol Park

Gyeol Park won the Asian Games gold medal in 2014

A candid shot of Gyeol Park from early January, 2015

Gyeol Park represented Korea in several important amateur events in 2014. The one where she did the best was the Asian Games, held this year in Inchon, South Korea. In front of her home crowd, Park shot a scintillating final round 64 to come from behind and capture the gold medal in women’s Individual golf for South Korea. It was the third straight games that Korea has won that gold; the 2006 winner, So Yeon Ryu, is now one of Korea’s top golf stars. It remains to be seen whether Park can reach Ryu’s heights, but soon after her win, she entered and won the KLPGA’s Qualifying School. So, she will be a pro on the KLPGA tour in 2015, vying for the Rookie of the Year award.

So Young Lee

So Young Lee won the gold medal at the Youth Olympics

Like Gyeol Park, So Young Lee represented Korea in several important amateur events in 2014. Her biggest moment came at the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. This event, a junior version of the Olympics Games, featured the first Olympic golf competition in over 100 years. Lee shot a final round 65 to finish three shots ahead of the silver medalist from Taiwan. Lee also teamed with a male in the Mixed Team event; they won silver after losing a dramatic playoff to Sweden, who took gold.

Favorite Photo Op

And the Winner Is: The KLPGA Logo Song/Best Gallery Ad Campaigns

The KLPGA had a fantastic season in 2014. In fact, they had so many fans showing up for some of their events that newcomers unfamiliar with golf etiquette became a bit of a problem. The tour could have been jerks about it, but instead, they came up with a clever way to help their new fans come up to speed. They created a cute commercial starring some of the KLPGA’s most popular players in dual roles as both themselves and clueless fans. Each vignette showed a fan action that violated golf etiquette, with the player helpfully explaining that, no, you shouldn’t wear high heels to the course, and please, you shouldn’t deflect a player’s ball from the tall grass just to be helpful!

Hyo Joo jokes around as a clueless fan who ‘saves’ a pro’s ball from going into the woods

The name of the campaign, and its tagline, was: You are the Best Gallery. It featured KLPGA stars Sei Young Kim and Hyo Joo Kim (who will both be on the LPGA next season), Ha Neul Kim and Chae Young Yoon. Even if you don’t understand Korean, you can get the gist of what they are trying to say. The clip is on YouTube and can be seen here! Check it out!

The KLPGA also came up with another marketing winner. They had someone write a KLPGA jingle which played at some point during every broadcast. Then, they got their Ten Chosen Golfers to sing the song, shot a video, and featured that as an ad for the tour!

KLPGA stars record their tour’s logo song

Whoa, wait. Ten Chosen Golfers? What’s that about?

Backtracking for a second, the KLPGA each year chooses ten golfers to represent the tour during the season. These golfers are featured in ads and special photo shoots to market the tour. This year, the chosen ten were a combination of top talents, beautiful and popular players who were not quite as good (but still pretty good), and golfers who were both beautiful AND successful. The chosen ten were: Hyo Joo Kim, Ha Na Jang, Sei Young Kim (all moving to the LPGA next year); Ha Neul Kim (moving to Japan next year); young star In Gee Chun; glamour girls Shin Ae Ahn, Char Young Kim and Chae Young Yoon (who had her career best season in 2014, as it turned out); and top players Soo Jin Yang and Yoon Kyung Heo. All the players except Heo convened at a recording studio and recorded the Logo Song and its accompanying video.

And yes, we have found the clip on YouTube also! Here it is; revel in the K-POP goodness!

If you can’t get enough, there’s even a Korean language ‘Making of’ video for this clip. Here it is:

Rookie to Watch in 2015

And the Winner Is: Kyu Jung Baek

Kyu Jung Baek

In last year’s ‘Rookie to Watch’ prediction, I said the following:

In 2014, there is little doubt that the rookie to beat on the LPGA tour will be world #4 Lydia Ko. Ko already has two wins on tour as an amateur, and nearly won the Evian Championship for her first Major victory. She is simply in a class by herself… it would be a real upset for her not to be next year’s star rookie.

OK, got that right. Ko had a simply outstanding year on the LPGA tour, winning three times and earning more than $2 million. Currently she is the #2 ranked golfer in the world. But to be honest, that prediction was like shooting fish in a barrel, and I said so last year. So to make things interesting, I chose as my rookie to watch a different player:

Mirim Lee is a talented rookie who should not be ignored, and is my choice for Rookie to Watch in 2014. Lee earned her tour card by finishing second at Q-School, carding an 11 under par 61 in one of her rounds. Like many KLPGA stars that join the LPGA, she has a lot of experience winning in a professional environment against tough opposition… If she comes up to speed quickly (and I believe she will), expect her to make some noise before the end of the year.

Mirim Lee

I guess I was two for two, because Mirim Lee finished #2 in the LPGA’s rookie standings for 2014! Lee was great, even better than I was expecting, notching two wins, a top ten at a Major, and another runner-up finish. Every indication is that we may just be seeing the beginning of what she can do.

Now moving on to next season, it is not an exaggeration to say that the KLPGA has never sent such a great collection of top talent to the LPGA in one season like it will do in 2015. Four of the top ten players on the KLPGA tour in 2014 earned LPGA tour cards for next year, two by winning LPGA events, two by qualifying at Q-School. As if that were not competitive enough, the rookie class will also include former world #1 amateur Minjee Lee and several promising college golfers, including stars Soo Bin Kim and Alison Lee.

Out of all those great players, why did I pick Kyu Jung Baek as my rookie to watch? If I were picking the most talented and successful of them all, I would pick Hyo Joo Kim. Kim has done things on the KLPGA tour (and the LPGA) that we haven’t seen a Korean player do in a long, long time. She is not only consistently excellent, but when she gets on a roll, she can be transcendent, doing things you will tell your grandkids about. There are a few variables about next year for her, though. For one, she has said she only plans to play around 15 events on tour in 2015. That’s potentially ten – twelve fewer than some of her top rivals. Even if she is really great in those 15 events, she is opening the door for another great player playing a full schedule to top her in the rookie standings. There is also the fact that she is still young and will have to deal with a new culture and new language which she does not speak. Despite these factors, I fully expect her to have a great rookie season.

But I’m picking Kyu Jung Baek because I think in some ways she is the dark horse in this group and may not get the attention she merits coming into 2015. Minjee Lee has played more LPGA events and is fairly well-known here as a result; the American golfers will get their press because they are American, and Hyo Joo Kim has the Evian title. Even Ha Na Jang and Sei Young Kim did well at Q-School, which gives them some cache. But Baek is known entirely to American fans for winning the LPGA event in Korea, and those late season Asian events don’t get even as much attention over here as the average LPGA event in an American small town.

Kyu Jung Baek

There are legitimate questions about her, too. Can she handle playing a full schedule out of her homeland, when she will be only 19 years old? How will she stand up to playing top players week after week, when she only has a year of pro experience in Korea (even Hyo Joo Kim has two years)?

But lost in the amazing season Kim had is the fact that Baek had a great year in her own right. She is the first rookie to win three times on the KLPGA since Jiyai Shin. And she really won FOUR times including the Hana Bank, the LPGA title she won to earn her tour card (this does not count as an official KLPGA win). Baek’s wins show what her main strength is: she plays emotionally, but does not let setbacks defeat her. If she has a slow start to 2015, I feel she’ll find a way to right the ship and get the job done!

After earning her card, she took some time to decide whether to come to the LPGA in 2015. She finally chose to take her tour card because she felt that she had a good support system on the LPGA, with several veterans, including Inbee Park, offering her advice and mentoring. I strongly suspect we will see Kyu Jung Baek vie for a few titles and make some serious noise in 2015.

Put ’em up! Kyu Jung is ready to rumble!

Also look out for: Hyo Joo Kim, Minjee Lee, Ha Na Jang, Sei Young Kim (LPGA); Ha Neul Kim (JLPGA); Gyeol Park (KLPGA)

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  1. […] 参照 SeoulSisters […]


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