Posted by: happyfan08 | January 2, 2018

2017 SeoulSisters Awards (2 of 7): Best Korean Finish, Cinderella, Breakthrough and Near Miss

Best Korean Finish

And the Winner Is: the US Women’s Open

The top Major of the season had a leaderboard filled with Koreans. The top four were all Sisters: the winner was Sung Hyun Park, the runner-up Hye Jin Choi, and world #1 So Yeon Ryu and MJ Hur were tied for third.

In addition, KLPGA sensation Jeong Eun Lee 6 was t-5, while three more Sisters were tied for 8th: Sei Young Kim, Mirim Lee and Amy Yang.

Also slipping into the top 20 were: Eun Hee Ji (t13), In Gee Chun and Jin Young Ko (t-15), and another KLPGA talent, Seon Woo Bae (t-19).

Other Nominees:

Honda Thailand

This leaderboard featured four Koreans at the top: 1 (Amy Yang), 2 (So Yeon Ryu), 3 (Sei Young Kim) and t-4 (In Gee Chun).  These four ladies also happened to have been the previous year’s Korean International Crown team.

Cinderella of the Year

And the Winner Is: Hye Sun Kim beats Jeong Eun Lee 6 at Seokyung Ladies Classic

This choice may seem like a bit of a surprise. The obvious selection for this award would have been Jin Young Ko for winning the KEB Hana Bank. While it is true that this could turn out to be a life-changing win for Ko, it is also true that Ko has been knocking on the door of a LPGA card at least since she nearly won the Women’s British Open back in 2015. She has 10 career KLPGA wins and has been one of the top players on that tour since nearly winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014. She is certainly a Cinderella, but I went instead for a truly unknown player who managed an amazing feat.

Jeong Eun Lee 6 had been the dominant player on the KLPGA all season. She managed 4 wins overall, and won all the big awards at year’s end. But she might easily have had five wins had things gone differently.

The Seokyung Ladies Classic was played in the Fall, and the weather did not cooperate. After two rounds, Lee was in a familiar place: atop the leaderboard. She was tied with a virtually unknown second-year player named Hye Sun Kim. But it seemed inevitable that Lee would be able to exert her will in the third and final round; would Kim have any chance against the tour’s top gun?

At first, the answer seemed to be ‘no’. On the final day, Lee ran up a quick lead on Kim, and looked headed for her fifth win of 2017.

But the weather was terrible, and a few holes into the third round, the wind became so strong that balls were being blown off the greens. There seemed little likelihood that the entire field would be able to complete three rounds. The tour decided to cancel the third round and shorten the event to just two rounds. But that left a problem: with the third day scores wiped, Kim and Lee were once again tied for the lead. They decided to have a three-hole, aggregate score playoff between the two. The conditions were brutal, but if they just had to keep three greens playable, they thought it could be done.

And wouldn’t you know, after the three holes were finished, it was Hye Sun Kim who came out on top! Fate and luck seemed to be on her side as she claimed her first career win over the powerful Lee. A Cinderella indeed!

Other Nominees:

Jin Young Ko wins KEB Hana Bank

Char Young Kim tops Inbee Park at Doosan Match Play

Inbee Park has never won a professional tournament in Korea. Let that sink in for a minute. The top player of her generation, only the second Korean to ever qualify for the Hall of Fame, has never won a tournament in her home country. Part of that is logistics: she never played on the KLPGA, and indeed played much of her formative golf in the States. But it’s also the case that she just seems to have been snakebitten whenever she’s come close to capturing a title there.

At this year’s KLPGA Doosan Match Play Championship, it looked like Inbee would finally get her title. She relentlessly worked her way through the field, reaching the final round, where she was matched against Char Young Kim. Kim had three career wins, but none since 2012; though she is a talented golfer, she would not be in the short list of top KLPGA talents.

And yet, she also had made the finals that week, proving she was playing well, and in the end, she handed Park the stunning loss. Kim grabbed her first title in five years, while Inbee would have to wait once again to get her long sought Korean victory.

Best Breakthrough

And the Winner Is: Hye Jin Choi

Choi started the year as one of the very best amateur golfers in the world. By the time she finished, she had nearly won the US Women’s Open, collected three official KLPGA events, and was on her way to a very likely 2018 KLPGA Rookie of the Year award.

Her professional breakthrough win came at the Chojung Sparkling Water Resort Open in late June. Choi was still a 17-year-old amateur when she teed it up there. After two rounds, she found herself six shots behind Ji Hyun Kim, who was looking for her third win in four starts.

But on Sunday, Choi went ballistic, shooting one of the most amazing rounds of the year. She produced a 9 under par 63 that included not one but two hole-outs for eagle. In the end, this was good enough for a one-shot victory, her first professional title. Choi would go on to win another KLPGA event before finally turning pro and joining the tour for the remainder of the year, but it was at this event that she broke through and warned the tour what they might be in for in the next few years.

Other Nominees:

Jeong Eun Lee 6

Jeong Eun Lee was last year’s Rookie of the Year, but 2017 was without question her break out season. She won 4 times, grabbed a top 5 at the US Women’s Open, and won 6 season ending awards. Her scoring average, well under 70, might have been the lowest in tour history. It certainly was one of the five best ever recorded. She might be the sixth woman with the name Jeong Eun Lee to play on the KLPGA, but she is well on her way to establishing herself as the best one!

Great Performance that came up short

And the Winner Is: In Gee Chun in Portland (and all season).

In Gee Chun had a strong sophomore year on the LPGA; her scoring average, for instance, was even better than the one she had when she won the Vare Trophy in 2016. But despite her best efforts, she was not able to get a win in 2017. Not that she didn’t come close…

She wound up with five second place finishes and two thirds, and the two thirds were in some ways as close to wins as some of the second places were. She lost a playoff at the Manulife to Ariya Jutanugarn, and was passed on the final day by Sung Hyun Park to lose the Canadian Women’s Open. She was also in the final group at the KEB Hana Bank, but lost her duel with fellow stars Park and Jin Young Ko.

But her closest brush with victory came at the Portland Cambia Classic. Stacy Lewis, who had not won in years, was in the lead going into the final round, and the entire crowd was rooting hard for her to take the title: not only was Lewis a big American star with a long history of just missing wins, she also had pledged to give her entire check that week to aid the hurricane relief efforts in Houston. But though In Gee has a heart as big as all outdoors and much empathy for the hurricane victims, she wanted the win, too, and was playing well enough to get it. She relentlessly tracked down Lewis all day, inching closer and closer as the tournament neared its end.

On the 17th hole, Chun hit a marvelous approach to a few feet while Lewis struggled to make par. The birdie would have tied Chun for the lead, but she just missed. In Gee was not able to make birdie on the last, and once again she found herself in second place. She was five shots ahead of third, but even playing her best golf of the year was not enough to get her the win on this day.

Other Nominees:

Hye Jin Choi, US Women’s Open

Hye Jin Choi was a 17-year-old amateur on a mission at this year’s US Women’s Open. As the final round proceeded, Choi moved herself into the lead and a chance to become only the second amateur to ever win the event, and the first in 50 years. She also would have been the youngest to win the title. Her only real competition seemed to be Rookie star Sung Hyun Park, herself looking for her first win on the LPGA. It remained tight until Choi reached the 16th. A par 3 with a water carry, Choi chose the wrong time to hit one of her less brilliant tee shots. Her iron landed in the drink, and that was enough to cost her the title. She finished second, but how amazing her year might have been had she made just one fewer mistake!


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