Posted by: happyfan08 | January 5, 2016

2015 SeoulSisters Awards (1 of 6): Best Start, Rivalry

Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Seoul Sisters awards, or ‘Seoulies’. 2015 was possibly the greatest season in history for Korean golf. In Gee Chun dominated the KLPGA and established herself as a world superstar. Lydia Ko continued to break records for youngest this and that all year, and Inbee Park cemented her place in history by qualifying for the Hall of Fame. The LPGA rookie race was littered with Koreans and ladies of Korean ethnicity. And Bo Mee Lee established new standards for excellence on the Japanese tour. Then there was Annie Park on the Symetra Tour, and Hannah O’Sullivan, a half-Korean American, winning the US Women’s Amateur.


The top LPGA Korean Rookies of 2015: Q Baek, Ha Na Jang, Hyo Joo Kim and Sei Young Kim

But most impressive of all: the Korean ladies won 15 times on the LPGA tour, an all-time record, and that does not even include the 6 events won by Korean Kyopos Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee. Korean born players won four of the five LPGA Majors, too. It was an astonishing year, and now it’s time to celebrate the top achievements!

The Young Guns Have arrived! Cool Abbey Road parody featuring some of the top young golfers of Korean ethnicity

AWARD for the Best Start to the Season

And the Winner Is: Korean-born golfers win first six events of LPGA season

This greatest of all seasons for the Koreans began with a bang, with six straight victories for women born in the Land of the Morning Calm. The year’s first event, the Coates Championship, almost saw a win by new LPGA rookie Ha Na Jang. But she, and Korean New Zealand prodigy Lydia Ko, were both trumped by longtime LPGA star Na Yeon Choi, who won her first event since 2012.

Ha Na Jang at the Coates Championship

Next came the Pure Silk Bahamas, which ended up in a playoff between another Korean rookie, Sei Young Kim, and Korean Sun Young Yoo and Thai player Ariya Jutanugarn. Kim got the win, her first of three in 2015.

Sei Young Kim Wins in the Bahamas

Next was the Australian Women’s Open. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko got that one, her first of five 2015 triumphs.

The tour moved next to Thailand, where Amy Yang topped Stacy Lewis for her second career win.

Then the tour moved to Singapore. The final round featured a battle between the top three women in the world. But Inbee Park, who made not so much as a single bogey all week, proved the best on this day.

Lastly, the tour finally arrived in America, where another Korean rookie, Hyo Joo Kim, played a brilliant final round to once again vex Stacy Lewis. Six events, six wins by ladies born in Korea. Simply incredible!

Hyo Joo Kim meets some of the LPGA Founders in Phoenix

Other nominees:

Ha Na Jang, Coates Championship

Playing in her first event as an LPGA member, and forced to Monday qualify to even get into the field, Ha Na Jang was in the mix right until the end, just narrowly missing the win.

Amy Yang

Amy got the win in Thailand, but in addition she also came close several more times, notching top fives in three other early events.

AWARD for the Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park vs. Sei Young Kim, Lotte Championship/KPMG/Ochoa Invitational/Bahamas

The best Korean rivalry this year was between Inbee Park and Sei Young Kim. It seemed like Sei Young was often popping up to challenge in the same events where Inbee was also doing well. Kim got the best of Inbee early, but the legend had the last laugh later in the year.

Their first big clash came at the Pure Silk Bahamas tournament in February. They were both in the hunt for the title on Sunday. Inbee made an early run, even getting into a tie for the lead, but she faded towards the end. Sei Young Kim next rallied, getting into a tight battle with Thai rookie Ariya Jutanugarn among others. It looked like it would be curtains for Kim when she put her approach on a late hole into what looked like a thicket of vines near the green, but somehow she made an unbelievable up and down from that mess. Later, she hit a superlative pitch on the final hole and made a birdie she had to make. She would go on to get her first LPGA win in a playoff, while Inbee finished a couple of shots back.

Sei Young and Inbee’s next battle saw the rookie score one of the most unlikely victories of recent years. Inbee seemed to be in control as the Lotte Championship’s final round wound down. Sei Young Kim somehow made a clutch par save on 17, but on 18, she hit her drive into the water, and missed the green on her third shot. Inbee had a long and extremely tricky birdie try that would have sealed the win, but her ball stopped one roll short. Sei Young Kim, still tied for the lead, HAD to sink the chip for par or it was all over. And she did it, throwing her club in triumph! Playoff time.

We will be getting back to that playoff later in these awards, but if you didn’t know, Sei Young Kim holed a 150 yard+ approach shot for eagle to win it! She played the 18th hole twice on Sunday, and hit no putts! Once again, she had gotten the better of her more famous opponent Inbee Park.

Inbee, In Kyung Kim and Sei Young Kim played together on Sunday in Hawaii

Not long after that, Inbee and Sei Young found themselves matched on Sunday in the final group yet again! This time it was for a Major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Sei Young would have been tied for the lead entering Sunday had she not made a big mistake on the final hole on Saturday. But she made it up with a clutch birdie run on the front nine on Sunday. Alas, she FOUR PUTT the 9th hole, giving Park back the advantage. Inbee took the ball and ran with it, accumulating such a lead that no holeouts were going to allow Sei Young to steal this win. At last, Inbee came out on top!

Inbee with the KPMG Championship Trophy

There was more to come. At Lorena Ochoa’s Invitational in November, the two friendly competitors were once again in the final group on Sunday. Kim played well, too, shooting a 66. But Park was absolutely unstoppable, shooting a 64 to claim her fifth win of the year.

It was a great mano-a-mano between these two stars in 2015, with each claiming two wins over the other. 2016 ought to be a real blast!

Other Nominees:

Chella Choi vs. Ha Na Jang, Marathon Classic

Chella finally got her first LPGA win by defeating frequent rookie runner-up Ha Na Jang in a playoff in Toledo.

Inbee Park vs. Jin Young Ko, Ricoh Women’s British Open

KLPGA star Jin Young Ko dominated most of the week, but LPGA legend Inbee Park was on a mission at Turnberry, and she hunted down and caught Ko on the back nine Sunday to collect her 7th Major win and complete the career Grand Slam.

In Gee Chun vs. Amy Yang, US Women’s Open

Amy Yang, like Ko above, led the US Women’s Open for several days, but KLPGA superstar In Gee Chun stayed hot on her heels on Sunday, finally taking the lead for good on the 15th hole. Yang rallied, caught her, then made a pivotal mistake on the 18th hole to give Chun the win.

Ryu vs. Hana Jang, High-1 Resort Women’s Open, KLPGA

One of the best battles on the KLPGA in 2015 was between two former KLPGA stars who had returned to Korea to play. In the final group together on Sunday, Ryu struck first, climbing to a two shot lead on the back of some mistakes by Jang. But Ryu then made back to back bogies on holes 9 and 10, and the two were again tied.

The shot of the tournament came at the 12th hole. Ryu left herself about fifty feet for birdie, and on the wrong level of a multi-tiered green to boot. Yet somehow she dunked the putt, moving back into the lead.

So Yeon Ryu in Korea

The incredible birdie rattled Jang, who proceeded to make bogies on the next two holes. Ryu hung on for the win, with Jang finishing second.

AWARD for the Best Korean Finish

And the Winner is: the US Women’s Open

In Gee Chun and Amy Yang duked it out for the title, with Chun winning and Amy finishing second. Inbee Park couldn’t buy a putt, but still finished tied for third with Stacy Lewis.

Other Nominees:

Coates Championship

Na Yeon Choi won, Lydia Ko and Ha Na Jang finished tied for second, and Amy Yang managed a 5th.

Na Yeon Choi won the year’s first event

Kia Classic

American Cristie Kerr won, but most of the rest of the top of the leaderboard was dominated by Koreans and women of Korean ethnicity. Mirim Lee finished 2nd, Lydia Ko 3rd, Korean American Alison Lee 4th, Inbee Park 5th, Hyo Joo Kim and Ha Na Jang t-6th, and Se Ri Pak and Il Hee Lee t-10th.

Lotte Championship

The top five players on the leaderboard were all Korean: Sei Young Kim beat Inbee Park in a playoff; IK Kim was third, and Hyo Joo Kim and Chella Choi tied for 4th.


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