Posted by: happyfan08 | January 9, 2018

2017 SeoulSisters Awards (7 of 7): Most Improved, Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

And the Winner Is: Jeong Eun Lee 6

Jeong Eun Lee 6 had a very good 2016 season. She was the surprise winner of the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year, upsetting the favorite So Young Lee. But she did not win an event, and so she came into 2017 as a player to watch, but not much more.

In 2017, Lee quickly showed she was a major talent, and by the end of the season, was the clear best player on tour. She won four times in 2017, and won all the major awards as well. As mentioned, she is known as Jeong Eun Lee 6 because she is the sixth player in KLPGA history with her same name. She has decided that 6 is her special number. She marks her balls with a big ‘6’, and her nickname is Lucky 6. And the number 6 seemed to follow her around in 2017.

For instance, she won 6 post season awards on the KLPGA: Player of the Year, money list leader, Scoring Average, and Most Wins, and was chosen by sportswriters as best player and by the fans as most popular. She became just the fourth woman to ever break a billion won in a season. Her scoring average of 69.80 was quite possibly the lowest in KLPGA history; she was certainly one of the few to ever break 70.

Lee shot a 60 in one of her wins (see Round of the Year), becoming the first player in KLPGA history to achieve that score. Yes, 60, another ‘6’ reference for her. As if that weren’t enough, she also played her first ever Major at the US Women’s Open this year, and once again found herself in contention all week. She wound up tied for 5th, even better than the 6th place you might have expected; but her final score was, yup, 6 under par.

Other Nominees:

IK Kim

Kim won once in 2016, but she had a fantastic year in 2017. For the first time in her career, she managed three wins in a single year, and also captured her first Major at the Women’s British Open (see Happiest News). She came close to capturing the LET’s Dubai Ladies Masters in December, losing in a playoff to American Angel Yin.

Ji Hyun Kim

Ji Hyun Kim is a veteran KLPGA golfer who joined the tour in 2010, but did not manage a win until 2017. In that season, however, she struck gold, collecting three wins including the Korea Women’s Open. She made nearly 790 million won for the season, placing her second on the money list behind just Jeong Eun Lee 6. By contrast, in 2016 she finished 13th on the money list, with a few top fives including a runner-up at the Doosan Match Play.

Ji Hyun Oh

Ji Hyun Oh has shown promise before this year, but the young 4th year player really came into her own in 2017. She won her first career Major at the Hanwha Classic, and also won at the BC Card for her first multi-win season. In addition, she finished third on the KLPGA money list with about 746 million won. She notched nine total top tens and played for the first time at the ING Champions and Kowa Queens team events.

Player of the Year

And the Winner is: So Yeon Ryu

This award came down to three players: So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park on the LPGA and Jeong Eun Lee 6 on the KLPGA. In the end, I’m giving the award to Ryu by a razor-thin margin.

Ryu had a career best season in 2017. She at last delivered on some of the promise she has shown since she joined the tour back in 2012. But it was a tight neck-and-neck battle between her and Sung Hyun Park, and in the end, they wound up exactly tied in the LPGA’s Player of the Year race, the first time in history that had ever happened.

There are compelling arguments for both women. Ryu finished with more top tens, 12 to Park’s 11. Both collected two wins including one Major. For Ryu, it was her first Major in a long time, while for Park it was her first ever Major. So Yeon got a big break at the ANA Inspiration when leader Lexi Thompson was hit with a four-stroke penalty, but Ryu also had to deal with a hostile crowd after that who were practically willing her to fail.

Despite that, So Yeon rose brilliantly to the occasion to close the deal. Park also benefitted  in her Major win from a late mistake by teen leader Hye Jin Choi, but unlike Ryu, she was not dealing with negative waves from the fans in attendance.

The tiebreaker in terms of Majors goes to Ryu, who had the better overall Major record and won the Annika award as a result.

Sung Hyun Park had to deal with being a rookie and rising to the task of not only claiming Rookie of the Year, but also handling all the challenges inherent in changing culture and tours. So Yeon is used to the LPGA, so that’s a mark in Park’s favor.

Park finished ahead of Ryu on the money list (they were 1-2), and had a better scoring average (she finished 2nd, Ryu 6th). Advantage Park. But Ryu managed to climb to #1 and stayed there for 19 weeks, whereas Park only got there for one week before falling down. And So Yeon hung on for part of the Player of the Year award despite struggling with injuries the last few weeks of the year.

Another plus mark for So Yeon was her incredible start to the season, where she notched eight straight top tens and eleven straight dating back to 2016. She also had to deal with far more adverse publicity than Park, not only from the Thompson “fans” who hounded her after the ANA, but also the Korean trolls who made her life difficult because of a controversy involving her dad and taxes. For a while, she even stopped posting Instagram and Twitter posts. And that was on top of the pressure of dealing with the #1 ranking.

How close was this choice? If Park had managed to play a tad better in the final round of the CME (one stroke better would have been enough), she would have won the Player of the Year outright and possibly reclaimed the #1 ranking as well. In that case, she would have definitively clinched this award as well.  But she couldn’t get that done, and so, by the slightest margin, So Yeon Ryu gets our Seoul Sisters Player of the Year award.

Other Nominees:

Sung Hyun Park

Jeong Eun Lee 6




  1. I would love more coverage of these lovely young athletes. They are all very talented and a lot of fun to follow

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