Posted by: happyfan08 | January 1, 2018

2017 SeoulSisters Awards (1 of 7): Best Start, Disappearing Act, Korean Confrontation

It’s time once again for my annual Seoul Sisters Awards for the best accomplishments by Korean women golfers in the 2017 season. Let’s get right to the fun!

Best Start to the Season

And the winner is: So Yeon Ryu’s consecutive top ten streak

So Yeon Ryu finished the 2016 season with three consecutive top five finishes, and she hit the ground running immediately in 2017. In her first event of the year, she played brilliantly, but fellow Korean star Amy Yang was too tough, and Ryu wound up 2nd. So Yeon notched top tens in her next two tournaments, then at the Kia Classic, found herself again playing great but behind a dominating Korean winner, in this case Mirim Lee. Still, she managed a tie for second there. The next tournament, the ANA Inspiration, would be her first win of 2017.

She would notch three more straight top tens before she finally finished outside the top ten. But her start to the season saw her make eight straight top tens which, when combined with the end of the previous season, gave her 11 straight top tens before she missed one.

Other Nominees:

Jeong Eun Lee 6 gets the first win of her career to start season.

Jeong Eun Lee 6 won the 2016 KLPGA Rookie of the Year award, but by the end of the season, she still had not broken into the winner’s circle. It didn’t take her long to correct that in 2017. Lee is known as Jeong Eun Lee 6 because she is the sixth KLPGA golfer in history with the name Jeong Eun Lee. She has embraced the number 6 as her lucky number. In her first event of the KLPGA season that took place in South Korea, the Lotte Rent-A-Car Women’s Open, Lee lived up to her nickname. She shot three consecutive rounds of 66 to claim her first career win. She would follow that up with four more straight top tens, including a runner-up finish, and would wind up dominating on the tour in 2017, claiming – yup, you guess it – six total awards at the year ending awards show. Maybe six really is her lucky number!

Biggest Disappearing Act

And the ‘Winner’ is: Kyu Jung ‘Q’ Baek

It’s incredible when you realize just how short Q Baek’s career has been, and just how young she still is. She joined the KLPGA in 2014, winning three times on tour including a Major, then claiming a fourth win that year at the KEB Hana Bank to earn her LPGA tour card. She won the Rookie of the Year award over such powerhouses as Jin Young Ko (who would herself win the Hana Bank tournament in later years), Min Sun Kim, multiple tour winner Ji Hyun Oh, and the recent world #1 Sung Hyun Park.

Joining the LPGA the following season, Baek struggled. She played full-time in America in 2015 and 2016, but became so discouraged that she returned to Korea this past season. Alas, she had little luck there: she made just 16 million won and finished outside the top 100 on the money list, possibly losing her KLPGA status in the process. On occasion, she played so badly that she not only finished last in the field, but sometimes was half a dozen or more strokes behind the next worst player.

Obviously, Baek has the talent to be a great player, and something has happened to her to cause her to completely lose confidence in her abilities. It could be burnout; that’s happened before. It could be an injury, although I’ve heard nothing about that. Whatever it is, hopefully she will be able to figure it out and return to her previous form. She is still just 22 years old, and could potentially have a long career ahead of her.

Runner up: Na Yeon Choi

Two years ago, Na Yeon Choi won twice on the LPGA tour. Last year, she missed a lot of cuts, but still finished 55th on the money list with nearly $350,000 earned.

This year, she was barely a blip on the radar all year. She earned only $46,000, just 135th on the money list. It’s quite possible she will lose her card on the LPGA for the first time since joining nearly a decade ago. Now, it’s quite possible she is struggling with injuries; the information on her situation is not complete. But for a player who was once the top player of all the Koreans (and #2 in the world) to fall this far, just two years after a two win season, is quite incredible.

Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner Is: KEB Hana Bank final round: In Gee Chun/Sung Hyun Park/Jin Young Ko

The most amazing battle featuring Korean golfers took place at this year’s annual LPGA visit to South Korea, the KEB Hana Bank Classic. The final round featured a pairing of three of Korea’s most popular and talented golfers. Sung Hyun Park and In Gee Chun are not only two of the three highest ranked Korean golfers in the world, they are also two of the most popular, both equipped with huge fan clubs who turn out in force whenever they play in Korea. Jin Young Ko is a top KLPGA star who is used to battling both of those ladies on the domestic tour. Although not as big a star, she still has quite a following in her own right.

Everyone knew having all three in the same final group was going to be big, but few guessed just how insanely jam-packed it would end up being. Over 30,000 fans showed up during the round, with thousands of them packing alongside the ropes to watch that final group alone. The golfers did not disappoint. All three played well and wound up as the top three golfers on the leaderboard, but surprisingly, it was the KLPGA player Ko who came out on top, thanks to an unbelievable display of iron hitting. She earned her tour card and will be playing on the LPGA in 2018. Park had to console herself with a runner-up finish, her second at this event in three years, while Chun finished third.

Other Nominees:

Hye Jin Choi vs. Sung Hyun Park, US Women’s Open

With the biggest prize in women’s golf on the line, teen amateur sensation Hye Jin Choi went toe-to-toe with LPGA rookie star Sung Hyun Park. It was anyone’s guess who would win until the 16th hole, when Choi unfortunately hit her tee shot into the water. A few holes later, in front of the President of the US and other fans, Park made a clutch up-and-down on the final hole to claim her first career Major.

Sung Hyun Park, Mirim Lee, and In Gee Chun, Canadian Women’s Open

Park came from well back like an unstoppable freight train. Mirim Lee, another long bomber, was in it most of the day, but made key mistakes late. She did make a clutch eagle on the final hole, but it was too little too late. The only player left who could stop Park from getting her second win of the year was In Gee Chun, but the Korean was just not able to close the gap. On the final hole, she needed eagle to force a playoff, but her approach landed in the bunker, and she could not get up and down from there to even make birdie. She dropped to third, and Sung Hyun collected her second national championship of the season.

ING Champions, KLPGA beats LPGA

This event is fast becoming quite an end-of-season tilt. The LPGA had won this the first two years, but this time, the KLPGA took a lead on day two, forcing the LPGA to come from behind on the final day, the singles competition. They only were able to break even, and the KLPGA won for the first time ever.

The pivotal moment came when the team of So Yeon Ryu and Inbee Park were not able to win their match. Ryu also lost her singles match 1 up to Seon Woo Bae, and those two losses by the recent world number one golfer were probably the difference.

We were denied perhaps the ultimate match. In the singles, In Gee Chun was originally scheduled to play Ha Na Jang, who now represented the KLPGA. Fans will recall the brouhaha that resulted last year when Jang’s father accidentally injured In Gee at the Singapore airport. Alas, the match did not come to pass: Jang had to drop out with an injury, and Chun wound up playing (and beating) old friend Min Sun Kim 1 up.

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