Most Controversial/Weirdest Moment

And the Winner Is: the debut of the Evian Championship as the fifth Major

Inbee enjoys the beautiful weather during round 1 of the Evian

Many flinched when the Evian Masters was elevated to Major status for the 2013 season without removing one of the other Majors.  Having five Majors instead of four introduced all sorts of problems and controversy, and the LPGA is still sorting it all out.

Firstly, having five Majors makes declaring a ‘career Grand Slam’ a real headache.  Does a player need all five Majors to have one?  What about the ladies who already had a four Major slam?  Do they now have their slams removed from their achievements?  The LPGA apparently even removed the career Grand Slam data from certain places on their website, showing even they had no clue what the new rules were.

Finally, the Commissioner stated that a Grand Slam meant winning four different Majors, meaning that Se Ri Pak could get one winning the Evian or the Nabisco but didn’t need both.  Of course, that didn’t please those who believe that a Slam means sweeping the table of all the existing Majors.

Naturally, the first year with this new system would also be the year that Inbee Park had a chance to win a calendar year Grand Slam, a feat no one thought was even remotely possible.  Writers spent as much time figuring out if Inbee winning the British (at St. Andrews, the home of golf!!) would give her the coveted Grand Slam, or if she had to win both remaining Majors to get that honor.  It was a needless aggravation that detracted from one of the greatest golf feats of modern times.

Then, when they finally played the Major, the bad weather severely impacted the tournament.  The officials jumped the gun by quickly deciding they could only play 54 holes.  54 holes – at a Major?  I can’t recall the last time that happened.  It made the entire event seem, well, not like a Major.

It all goes to show that it takes more than labeling something a Major to make it so.

Honorable Mention: Crow nearly eats Jee Young Lee’s ball at British Open

Nuff Said.  One of the weirdest moments of the year no doubt.  Jee Young was also involved in another controversy at the North Texas Shootout.  She her hit tee shot out-of-bounds, picked up her provisional, and had to return to the tee.  Meanwhile, the final group had played through.  Inbee and Carlotta Ciganda had to stand in the fairway and wait while Jelly hit a second drive out-of-bounds, then finally hacked her way through the hole, making a ten.  Ouch, what a humiliating way to end what had been before that a decent event for her.

Biggest Diss                        

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park Shut Out of AP Female Athlete of the Year Award

Inbee in March

It’s hard to understand what the AP was thinking when they didn’t give Inbee Park the award for Best Female Athlete of the Year.  It’s not like they haven’t rewarded LPGA golfers before.  Annika Sorenstam won this award three times in a row, Lorena Ochoa twice.  Even Se Ri Pak managed the feat, capturing it in her rookie year of 1998.  But the AP gave the award to Serena Williams instead.  It was Williams’ third win.  You can’t help but think that Inbee would have gotten this if she were American.  Williams certainly had a fine season, with two Majors and 11 wins, but that sort of performance, while impressive, is more common in women tennis.  Nobody had done what Inbee did this year in 60 years.  She was flat-out better and deserved the crown.

Even more outrageous, Inbee was not even in the top three of the AP voting.  The two other athletes named instead of Inbee were Missy Franklin, a swimmer who somehow got consideration even though this was not an Olympic year, and a WNBA rookie who was not even voted Rookie of the Year in her league.  The mind boggles.

The only assumption I can make is that Inbee didn’t get the award because she isn’t American, and because of that fact, her monumental achievement was not given the attention in this country it deserved.  Imagine for a minute Paula Creamer did what Inbee did (or even Brittany Lang).  Any chance she doesn’t get the AP Player of the Year?  And if the only difference between the two is that one is a popular American and one is a shy Korean, that doesn’t say much for the integrity of the award, does it?  Shouldn’t sportswriters, whose job it is to follow sports, know better?

By the way, Inbee was voted the Female Golfer of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America (in a landslide; she received 91% of the vote), so her achievements were not overlooked by all Americans who write about sports for a living!

Dishonorable Mention: Ha Neul Kim forced to defend title and miss LPGA Q-School

Ha Neul during a December fashion shoot

Ha Neul Kim has been on the KLPGA since 2007, when she won the tour’s Rookie of the Year.  She has been a star attraction all that time.  Most great players leave the tour after four years at most, but Kim had been drawing the fans in for 7 years.

So you think the tour would cut this great player a little slack, but that’s not how it worked out.  Here’s what happened.  She announced that she wanted to go to LPGA Qualifying School.  But they changed the way LPGA Q-School sectionals work.  It used to be the case they had two different sectionals, and those who qualified from those events went on to the finals.  Now, however, there is only one sectional, and if you miss it, you don’t get a chance to compete for a card for the following year.

As it turns out, Ha Neul was also the defending champion at the KLPGA’s Rush & Cash Charity Classic.  The KLPGA has a rule that a player MUST defend any title barring injury.  That event, however, fell the week before the only LPGA sectional.  Kim felt she could not play the sectional if she defended, and so she was forced to drop out of qualifying.

After all the great things she has brought to the KLPGA, you’d think they’d give her a pass this once.  It’s a crying shame, but Ha Neul will be back on the KLPGA in 2014, missing out on another year of LPGA play.

 Jamie Farr removed from Jamie Farr classic

Jamie Farr supported and hosted the Jamie Farr Classic on the LPGA tour for more than 20 years.  This year he retired, and the tour organizers responded by removing all trace of Farr from the event.  Not only was his name not in the event title, he was not to my knowledge invited to participate in any way, nor was he acknowledged on TV coverage or by the tournament.  What a pity.

Evian final round shown on Network TV but not in all areas

Another sign that the Evian is not considered a true Major is that it was not shown on TV in certain parts of the country.  The final hour and a half of the tournament was broadcast on network TV, but in Seattle, for instance, it was replaced by a garden show.  Thus, fans from that area were not allowed to watch the final holes of a MAJOR in any way.

Saddest News

Death of Ok Hee Ku

The memorial to Ok Hee Ku in July

The saddest story of the year was the unexpected death, at age 56, of Ok Hee Ku.  Ku was the first Korean to win a tournament on the LPGA tour when she captured the Standard Register Turquoise Classic in 1988.  Ku did not have nearly the impact on her sport that Se Ri Pak would a decade later, but her win on the LPGA tour in 1988 was still a very significant one, especially in retrospect, and you could argue she was the most important Korean golfer of the 20th century other than Pak in terms of her legacy.

In a way, if Se Ri was the Korean golf version of Elvis Presley, Ku was Bill Haley. She got there first, had a big impact, then faded from the Western golf scene, but her example set the table for what Se Ri and all the other great golfers who followed her would later accomplish.

During the Ku Memorial

Besides her important LPGA career, she also held the record for most career wins on the KLPGA with 20 until Jiyai Shin broke it a couple of years ago. That’s more wins than Kimmie, Se Ri, Na Yeon Choi or Hee Kyung Seo. She also had a great career on the JLPGA tour, where she was a top player as recently as 2005 and won 23 times. She was the first player inducted into the KLPGA Hall of Fame. As far as I know, only she, Pak, Shin and possibly Kimmie are in there now. Talk about an exclusive group!  She also was the President of the KLPGA in 2011 and 2012.

Her memorial service attracted many of the top Korean stars who were in Korea at the time, including Jiyai Shin, Mi Hyun Kim, Grace Park and Soo Yun Kang.

Mi Hyun Kim pays respects

Soo Yun Kang and Jiyai Shin shed tears

Grace Park

Other Nominees: Shi Hyun Ahn/Marco abuse stories

In June, there were allegations that the troubled marriage between TV talk show personality ‘Marco’ (yes, he uses one name) and golfer Shi Hyun Ahn had taken a dark turn.  Police were called to their home, and at the time Ahn claimed he had physically abused her (she later dropped charges).  Since they have a daughter together, it makes the situation even sadder.

I have since read stories implying they have divorced or at least separated.  Whatever the situation, I hope Ms. Ahn and her daughter will come out of it OK .

Jung Yeon ‘Sarah’ Lee arrested, convicted for DUI.

Sarah Lee was a longtime LPGA player who returned to play full-time in Korea a few years ago.  Back on March 29th she was stopped for DUI. Apparently she refused to give a breathalyzer test (she was asked four times), and acted belligerently towards the officer, swearing and even hitting him on the chest.

Lee was arrested and later released. She went to court, where the verdict came down last week: two years probation and 120 hours of community service.

Happiest News

And the Winner Is: Hee Kyung Seo gets hitched

The November bride Hee Kyung Seo

Hee Kyung Seo married her sweetheart Jung Hoon Kook, 34, on November 30th.  They planned to honeymoon in Maui.  Congratulations to the Fashion Model of the Fairways!

Among those who came to the ceremony were good friends Ha Neul Kim and Inbee Park.

The Original Supermodels of the Fairways, Seo and Ha Neul Kim

World #1 Inbee Park arrives for the wedding

Another Winner: Kyeong Bae gets hitched!

Kyeong Bae

Longtime KLPGA and LPGA mainstay Kyeong Bae also tied the knot in 2013.  Her marriage was December 7th.  Congratulations to her!

KB interviewed in July

Most Touching Moment

And the Winner Is: Grace returns for one last tournament at Hana Bank

Grace Park during her final tournament as a pro, the Hana Bank

When Grace Park retired from the game in 2012, it all happened so quickly that her longtime fans had little time to say goodbye.  So, Hana Bank gave her one more chance to play at this year’s Hana Bank.  She was paired with Se Ri Pak and longtime friend Cristie Kerr.  It was great to see Grace in action one final time!

Old friends Se Ri Pak and Cristie Kerr give Grace a photo of her most iconic moment, her Major win at the 2004 Kraft Nabisco

It’s About Time Award

And the Winner is: Amy Yang wins on the LPGA tour

Amy wins at last! Chella Choi congratulates her

In 2006, Amy Yang won the ANZ Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour (yes, I know Australia is not in Europe; work with me!).  She thus became the youngest woman to ever win a professional event (a record since smashed by Lydia Ko).  Not long thereafter, Yang turned pro and joined the European tour, where she won several more times.  When she joined the LPGA full-time in 2009, many expected her to quickly establish herself as a top player on tour.

That she did.  With her length and talent, she was particularly adept at Majors.  But there was one problem: Yang was not winning.  Even when she played brilliantly, like at the 2012 US Women’s Open, where she was four shots better than the next player on the leaderboard, she still didn’t get the trophy – at that event, Na Yeon Choi was even better, and Yang finished second.

For years, she has been known as the best Korean on tour never to win, but that came to an end in Korea at the 2013 Hana Bank championship.  When she dropped her birdie putt in the playoff to beat Hee Kyung Seo and claim her first title, Yang ended nearly five years of futility.  Here’s hoping the next win comes a lot quicker!

The trophy

Honorable Mention: Lydia Ko turns pro

Boy, talk about a long overdue move!  Lydia Ko had won four professional events as an amateur before she finally turned pro in October of 2013.  Had she been a pro, she would have pocketed well over a million dollars for her efforts.  She’s already starting to make up for lost time; just in winnings since turning pro, she has earned over $100,000, and that’s not including endorsements.  It would have not been too absurd for Ko to have turned pro at the start of last year when she won the NSW Open, but certainly by the time she collected the CN Canadian Women’s Open later that year, there was no doubt she could make a living swinging a stick.  Anyways, at least she’ll never have to answer the question about when she is turning pro again!

Korean wins Player of the Year on LPGA

Inbee Park will forever be the first Korean who won the coveted LPGA Player of the Year award

The single most overdue achievement for the Koreans has at last been done!  When Inbee Park secured the Player of the Year award, it ended 15 years of trying since Se Ri Pak’s Rookie year breakthrough started the Korean Boom.

Pak probably should have won the thing in 1998, her rookie year, but the weight of expectations ground her down, allowing Annika Sorenstam to sneak in at the end of the year and win it, despite having 0 Majors to Pak’s 2.  The biggest missed chance, though, came in 2009.  Jiyai Shin had the lead in the race much of the year, but Lorena Ochoa came on strong at the end.  It literally came down to the final shot of the year.  Shin needed a birdie on her final hole to move high enough in the standings to close out Ochoa, but she missed by inches and Ochoa beat her by a single point.

It wasn’t easy for Inbee in 2013, either.  After establishing a seemingly insurmountable lead by July, Park slumped, and Suzann Pettersen began chipping away at the advantage.  Park finally stood up to her, finishing fourth at Lorena’s event to finally secure the long desired title.


Most Fashionable

And the Winner Is: Je Yoon Yang

The Korean ladies are not only great golfers, they are also stars in their fashion choices on the fairways.  In fact, each year the KLPGA gives out a ‘Best Dresser’ award at its yearly awards banquet, chosen by the fans.  You can bet there are many golfers on that tour dying to grab that accolade.

The past few years, KLPGA star Ha Neul Kim has dominated our Best Dresser award.  I could easily give it to her again this year: her clothes seem to me to present a perfect mix of athletic, beautiful and fashion forward.  But for the sake of variety, I’ve decided to look elsewhere this year.  Still, we tip our caps to Ha Neul and her continued sense of style!

Ha Neul at the Hanwha

Major Fashion at the Hite Cup

Ha Neul chips at the ADT CAPS

The Best Dresser on the KLPGA tour this year, as voted by the fans, was Soo Jin Yang.  Soo Jin’s style is definitely a bit more out there.  When it works, she can look quite good.

Soo Jin Yang

Soo Jin at the year’s fourth Major

At the Korean Women’s Open, where, as a former champ, she got a courtesy car for the week

But in my opinion, her look is sometimes a bit too outré to really work on most fairways.  It’s always fun to see what she is going to wear, but too often it’s not ‘golf’ enough.

One of Soo Jin’s wilder outfits. Seussical!

The hat is wild!

Hard to top this one!

Another popular player is Shin Ae Ahn.  Ahn’s look tends to emphasize the sexy side of the equation.  That works to a degree, and certainly male fans don’t complain, but I think the ideal look is a bit more demure.  Still, far be it from me to pass up more hits on my blog, so here are a few samples of Miss Ahn’s outfits.

Go For It! Not sure the ‘words on the derriere’ look really works for the golf course.

Is this look pushing the envelope a bit too much?

Shin Ae generates a lot of controversy for the briefness of her skirts/skorts, as seen here.

On the LPGA, I think the player who does fashion the best is So Yeon Ryu.  Consider this an honorable mention for this award.  Here are some samples.

Dramatic black and white top from the JLPGA’s Salonpas Cup

Ryu was on a roll at the Salonpas Cup. Here’s another nifty look.

So Yeon shot a blistering 65 in the final round of the Nabisco, and wore this nifty outfit while doing it!

So Yeon lost the Hanwha Classic, but this black and red outfit was a winner.

My Fashion Star for 2013 is the KLPGA’s Je Yoon Yang.  She isn’t as out there as Soo Jin Yang, as sexy as Ahn or as consistently fashionable as Ha Neul, but her look just works for her, and I find her to be quite striking when she picks the right outfit, which is often.  So, congratulations to Je Yoon Yang for the Seoul Sisters Best Dresser award!

Jumping to get a look at her shot. Love the socks!

Candid shot of Je Yoon from last May

Green is a great look on her

From the EDaily

This yellow patterned skirt is really cool

Basic black and white

Even when freezing she pulled together a compelling look

From the Swinging Skirts in Taiwan

Round of the Year

And the Winner Is: Ha Na Jang, round 4, Hite Cup

Ha Na Jang destroyed the field at the year’s third KLPGA Major

In 2009, Ha Na Jang was a teenage amateur star who challenged the KLPGA top guns at two Majors.  The first one of these was the Hite Cup, where Hee Kyung Seo prevented her from possibly getting the win.

Jump ahead four years, and Jang was now a big star on the KLPGA and Seo was a visiting player from the LPGA.  After three rounds, they were tied for the lead at the Hite Cup and played together in the final round.

Seo got close several times in 2013 but couldn’t get the win

This time, Jang left nothing to chance.  She holed out for eagle on hole three, then followed that with one of the most blistering displays of golf all year.  She made birdie on six of the next seven holes, while Seo played basically even par golf until a double on 10.  By that time, Jang had increased her lead from nothing to ten strokes.  The win was a foregone conclusion after that.

Honorable Mentions:

Na Yeon Choi, 67 at British Open, round 2

Na Yeon Choi shot a 67 at St. Andrews in the worst weather of the day, a performance perhaps just as amazing as her great third round that led to her US Women’s Open win in 2012.  Indeed, her British score was almost as many strokes better than the average score in those conditions as her unreal round from last year.

Mirim Lee shoots 61, round 3, Q-School

Mirim Lee celebrates her win at the EDaily on the KLPGA early in 2013

Mirim Lee was soundly thrashed at LPGA Q-School by Jaye Marie Green, who produced a 29 under par total en route to a ten stroke ‘win’ at that event.  But Lee finished second there at 19 under, and easily earned her tour card for 2014.  In the process, she shot a third round 61, which beat Green’s 62 for round of the week.  It was also the lowest score ever shot at Qualifying School, according to the LPGA’s website.  Nifty!

In Gee Chun, final round, Korean Women’s Open

In Gee Chun from June

In Gee Chun was fast establishing herself as the only rookie capable of challenging Hyo Joo Kim for the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year award.  The two teen stars were paired together in the final round of the Korean Women’s Open.  Kim struggled, Chun was in position to win, but the player who seemed ready to capture the title was 20-year-old So Yeon Park, who established a several shot lead on the front nine and held onto it tenuously.

For 14 holes, Chun played steadily, but starting on 15, she made her move.  She made four straight birdies to end her week, catching and passing Park on the last one to win the Major title by a shot.  She would push Kim for the top Rookie title the rest of the year.

Hee Young Park,  61, 3rd round at Manulife

Hee Young Park from March

Hee Young Park had a lot of ‘Rocket’ moments at the Manulife, but her third round 61 might have been the greatest.  It was not only the lowest round of her career, but the lowest a Sister achieved on the LPGA tour in 2013.

Lydia Ko mega low at Aussie Open round 1

Playing with world #1 Ya Ni Tseng in round 1, Ko electrified the crowd by producing a 10 under par 63 to take the lead.  She ended up finishing third.

Ha Neul Kim at MBN runs up leaderboard, catches and blows away competition.

Ha Neul en route to her only win of 2013

Ha Neul Kim had an unusually weak start to her KLPGA season in 2013.  Coming off two straight years as the leading money winner on tour, she suddenly found herself outside of the top ten week after week.  During the tour’s summer break, she played the US Women’s Open, where she led after the first round and ended up tied for 25th, a great performance.  This seemed to reenergize Kim, and when she return to action in Korea in late summer, her great game returned with her.

Kim got her only win of the season at the MBN Kim Young Joo Golf Women’s Open in late August.  Ha Neul played steadily in this low scoring affair, and after three rounds was four shots behind leader Sei Young Kim.  But she started the fourth round on an incredible tear, making birdie on 7 of her first 12 holes, knocking it stiff time after time.  By the time that stretch was done, she was well in the lead, and despite a late challenge from Hyo Joo Kim, went on to win the tournament.

Inbee round 1, Swinging Skirts

Inbee returned to her early season form in her last few events of the year.  At her final event of 2013, she shot a 9 under par 63 in round 1 to take a lead, but struggled a bit after that and wound up third.  Still, it was one of her best rounds of the year.

Posted by: happyfan08 | January 6, 2014

2013 SeoulSisters Awards (3 of 6): Shot of the Year and more

Clutch Performance of the Year

And the Winner Is: Inbee collects herself and wins LPGA Championship

Inbee Park during round 4 of the LPGA Championship

Inbee Park could scarcely have started the 2013 season better.  She had already won the year’s first Major, and after three and a half rounds at the year’s second Major, the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, she was in a perfect position to make it two for two.

But due to bad weather, the final 36 holes of this tournament were played on Sunday, and as the final nine holes wore on, it was clear that Inbee was running on fumes.  She was missing fairways right and left, deadly on this particular course.  Several players had finished their days following great rounds, setting a bar below which Park could not dip.  Somehow (she called it ‘a miracle’) she was able to hang on and end her day tied for the lead with Scot Catriona Matthew.  But now she would have to play a playoff with a woman who had just shot a 68 in her own final round.

In the few minutes between ending her regulation play and starting the playoff, Park regrouped. She told herself that she was going to hit the fairway on the next drive no matter what. Hitting the fairway became her sole purpose in life at that moment. As further motivation, her caddie promised to buy her a dinner every time she hit the fairway during the playoff.

Inbee throws the ball following her win

Remarkably, when the playoff started, it was Matthew who struggled, while Park was suddenly on her game.  They played three playoff holes, with Park hitting two fairways and missing the third by a foot.  Matthew, meanwhile, was the one missing the short grass.  On the third hole, Matthew wound up in the heavy stuff, and her third shot did not reach the green.  She wound up with a bogey, and Inbee sank an 18 foot birdie on the same hole to wrap up the title and her second straight Major.  It was one of the most amazing turnarounds this season, and it all was due to Park’s mental fortitude and ability to focus on the task at hand and forget her previous struggles.  In other words, it was the very definition of ‘clutch’.

Major trophy #2 of 2013

Honorable Mention: Hee Young Park, final round, Manulife

Hee Young Park’s second career LPGA trophy

Hee Young Park was involved in a titanic battle for the crown at the Manulife Classic in July.  The course was playing very easy, and even after shooting a career low 61 in round 3, she still found herself losing ground to Angela Stanford and Catriona Matthew (again!) in the final round. But Park’s nickname is Rocket for a reason: when she gets her game in gear, she can rocket up the leaderboard like few in the game.  And that’s exactly what she did in Ontario.  Park wound up making birdie on 7 of her final 8 holes, including all three holes in the playoff.  Her final score of 26 under par is the lowest total four round score against par ever achieved by a Korean golfer on the LPGA tour, breaking the record of 25 under set by Se Ri Pak way back in 2001 in Phoenix.  It was an absolutely blistering display of what makes her great, and in the end she needed every one of those birdies to get the win.

Inbee rallies at the end of the year for two straight top fives to win POY.

Inbee Park, her fiance, and the Player of the Year trophy

Inbee struggled after winning the US Women’s Open in late June.  In fact, she would not make another top ten for several months.  While she languished, first Stacy Lewis, then Suzann Pettersen, made runs at her position atop the Rolex Rankings and atop the Player of the Year standings.  Inbee wanted desperately to be the first Korean to win the Player of the Year on the LPGA tour, and she felt it slipping away.

Finally, in the penultimate event of the year, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Inbee knew what she had to do: beat Pettersen.  She had not finished ahead of the Norwegian in some time, but Pettersen was now the only person who could deny her the POY.  To make matters more interesting, the two were paired together in the final round, and both were in contention for the title.  Neither won, but Inbee managed to dig deep and finish with a 69 in fourth place, one shot ahead of Pettersen.  It was all she needed to claim the Player of the Year.

She still had to worry about losing the #1 ranking and the money list lead, but the next week, at the CME Titleholders, she finished fifth, ahead of both Pettersen and Lewis, the only two players who could prevent her from winning the money list.  For good measure, she threw in a third place finish at the non-LPGA event the Swinging Skirts in December, which padded her Rolex lead even more.

It was a clutch way to end a trying year for her.

Biggest Disappointment

And the ‘Winner’ is: Na Yeon Choi and Hee Young Park let the British Open slip between their fingers

Na Yeon Choi at St. Andrews

Na Yeon Choi had a lackluster 2013 by her high standards.  After winning at least twice most years since breaking through in 2009, she did not manage a single win in 2013.  She did come close at the HSBC Women’s Champions in March, but just missed a few too many makeable birdies when it counted most.

But the stars really seemed to be aligning for Na Yeon at St. Andrews, where the Ricoh Women’s British Open was contested in 2013.  Inbee Park, trying for her fourth straight Major, was done in by pressure and the course.  Na Yeon shot a fantastic second round 67 to move herself into the final group.  The Koreans had won five straight Majors and seemed poised to make it six.

The first problem came when bad weather forced the postponement of round 3.  Once again, they would play 36 holes on Sunday at a Major in 2013.  Still, Choi continued to shine as the action wound on.  Her strong play earned her a three shot lead with just six holes to play.

Choi hits an iron at the British Open

Meanwhile, Hee Young Park was also having a great week and looked like she might be able to collect her first Major trophy.  But Hee Young hit a roadblock when she made three straight bogies and had to play from both the notorious Hell Bunker AND the Road Bunker.  Despite all those struggles, she hung in there until the end, when her playing partner Stacy Lewis made two straight improbable birdies to knock Park out of the running.  It was a great week for her, and her best ever Major finish, a tie for second; but oh, how close to a win it was!

Hee Young Park had a roller coaster final day, but still notched her best ever Major finish

Choi looked like she was going to make all that academic, but she also began to make bogies on the final few holes and slid back towards the field.  On the 17th hole, she needed to make par to stave off the charging Lewis, but made a crushing bogey.  She wound up tied with Hee Young for second, losing for a second time in 2013 to Lewis (she also lost to her at the HSBC).

Park’s loss was sad but understandable; she had never been in that position before.  But Choi had a lead AND had won a Major the previous year.  She should have been able to avoid the kind of mistakes that cost her the title.  Choi was winless the rest of the season.

Honorable Mention: So Yeon Ryu loses Hanwha thanks to extraordinary luck

So Yeon Ryu was the defending champion of the KLPGA’s Hanwha Classic in 2013, and although she was no longer sponsored by Hanwha, still wanted the win badly.  She had yet to win anywhere in 2013 when she arrived at the event in September.

By the third round, So Yeon Ryu had firm control at the Hanwha Classic

She dominated most of the week, and with ten holes to play had a six shot lead.  Certainly the win was hers for the taking.  But at that moment, Sei Young Kim began playing unearthly golf.  She started her run by making a hole-out eagle on the 9th hole. Ryu made birdie, though, so the lead was still five.

The lead remained five with five holes to play. Ryu had a brief hiccup when she missed the green on the par 5 14th and couldn’t get up and down, reducing her lead to 4. On the next hole, she had to scramble a bit, but made par. But Kim made birdie, and now the lead was three.

Ryu in round 4

Still, a three stroke lead with three to go seemed secure. When Kim missed the fairway on 16 and was in trouble, while Ryu striped it perfectly, things looked good again. But Kim smashed her approach from there and ran it improbably up the green to ten feet, after which Ryu overshot the green and wound up in the rough. Uh oh.

Not to worry. Ryu got up and down, Kim missed the birdie, and they both walked off with pars. The lead was now 3 with two to go.

Then Kim stepped to the par 3 17th and made a hole-in-one! Her second hole out from the fairway in less than nine holes! Ryu missed the green, but still got it up and down for par. The lead was now only one.

So Yeon Ryu and her chaser, Sei Young Kim

Kim’s second on the par 5 final hole ended up in trouble, while Ryu’s was perfect. But again, Kim somehow punched her third onto the green, while Ryu was short. In deep rough, So Yeon chipped to four feet and had to watch and wait while Kim missed her birdie chance. Now Ryu had a four footer for par to win. Which, of course, lipped out.  Tie game.

Ryu would go on to lose a one hole playoff, probably too shell-shocked to believe it had come to that.  This disappointment wasn’t at as important a tournament as the Ricoh, so it doesn’t win this award, but this loss has to be the most disappointing from the pure standpoint of how dominant Ryu had been all week and how much luck was involved for Kim to get the trophy.

So Yeon was disappointed but still congratulated the winner Kim

Shot of the Year

And the Winner Is: Jiyai Shin hits pitch-in birdie from behind sign, final round, ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

How sweet it is! Jiyai Shin collected the Australian Open title thanks to a brilliant pitch shot

The situation: Jiyai Shin was locked in a fierce battle with teen star Lydia Ko for the title in Australia.  Ko had won the previous week’s New Zealand Women’s Open and was looking for a matching Aussie Open win.  Meanwhile, world #1 Ya Ni Tseng was charging hard.  By the time they reached the 14th hole, the battle was at its height.  Shin hit a poor approach that nestled into deep rough next to an advertising sign.  The sign partially blocked her view of the green, and she would have to nestle up against it to hit her third shot.  At that point, Ko had caught Shin and was tied with her, while Tseng was just one shot back.

An up-and-down for par from there would have been amazing enough, but Shin hit a high, arcing pitch that plopped gently onto the green and rolled right into the hole for birdie!  From that point on, Shin had the momentum, and she went on to collect the crown, with Tseng finishing second and Ko third.

Honorable Mention: Sei Young Kim hole in one on 17th hole, Hanwha Classic

See also Biggest Disappointment – Honorable Mention for more details.  Sei Young Kim was three shots behind So Yeon Ryu with two holes to play at the Hanwha Classic.  She proceeded to make a hole-in-one on the par 3 17th, her second hole-out for eagle during that round.  She went on to win the event in a playoff.

Amy Yang approach in playoff, Ha Na Bank

Amy Yang put herself into trouble off the tee during the playoff with Hee Kyung Seo at the Hana Bank.  She hit a poor second as well, but her third shot was magic, putting her close enough to make a straightforward birdie for the win a few minutes later.

Inbee Park, winding hilly birdie putt, round 3, US Women’s Open, to end bogey train

This is the putt of the year on the LPGA tour, hands down.  Inbee Park, a magician with a putter, was leading the US Women’s Open during round 3 when she hit a rough patch.  Without particularly playing poorly, she made three straight bogies.  On the 14th hole, she put her approach on the top level of a very undulating green, with the flag alas on the bottom level.  That putt was going to have a lot of speed, and a three putt (and fourth bogey) seemed a very likely proposition.  But Inbee read the putt to perfection, it rolled down the hill at just the right pace, tracked perfectly to the hole and dropped in.  The resulting birdie saved her tournament.  Not a single LPGA highlight package for 2013 is complete without showing this magical putt!

Most Dramatic Hole

And the Winner Is: Final hole, Honda Thailand, where Ariya Jutanugarn messed up a sure win with a triple bogey.

Inbee Park was in the clubhouse, two shots behind teen wunderkind Ariya Jutanugarn.  The event was the Honda LPGA Thailand, and Ariya had a chance to not only become the first Thai player to win an LPGA event, but to do it in her home country.  The atmosphere was electric.  On the final par 5, all the long-hitting Ariya had to do was make bogey and the win was hers.

Her first shot was OK.  The only play from there was to lay up, get on the green in three (maybe four), and give a great trophy acceptance speech.  Instead, Ariya decided to go for the green in two.  Her approach wound up in a fairway bunker, plugged.  She had to take a drop from within the bunker to get a shot to play.  She overshot the green from there, hit a poor chip back, then three putted for a triple bogey 8.  Without playing another shot, Inbee went from being the runner-up to the winner.

Honorable Mention: Final hole, Hana Bank. 

Amy Yang can’t believe she has finally won the Hana Bank title

Hee Kyung Seo came close to winning, but it was another playoff loss for her

The par 5 18th hole at the Hana Bank was the scene of a lot of drama this year.  First Michelle Wie reached the greenside rough in two shots, got close to the hole with her third, and made birdie to post an 8 under total.  Sei Young Kim, a KLPGA star, got to 9 under, where she still was when she reached the final hole.  But she hit her approach into deep rough near the green, and her pitch did not get to the green.  She made bogey and fell into a tie with Wie.  Meanwhile, both Amy Yang and Hee Kyung Seo made  clutch birdie putts to move to 9 under, eliminate Wie and Kim, and force a playoff with each other. Yang made the winning birdie putt on the first playoff hole after hitting a great approach to set herself up.

Bahamas hole where hitting off-line ends up on beach

At the 2013 Pure Silk Bahamas, rain so affected the event that they were forced to play only 12 of the 18 holes of the course, and thus changed the order of the holes to accommodate this new setup.  The second to last hole they played was extremely dramatic.  On the right was deep rough, but on the left was a wall beyond which was a beach bordering the ocean.  It was possible to hit over the wall and cut the corner, making the hole shorter, but if you didn’t carry it far enough, you’d be hitting your next shot off the sand next to someone’s sand castle.  It was fascinating watching the players struggle here.  Some ended up in the sand, some in the big weeds on the right, some in the gnarly rough near the wall.  Il Hee Lee cut the corner successfully and went on to win the tournament.

Posted by: happyfan08 | January 3, 2014

2013 SeoulSisters Awards (2 of 6): Welcome Back, KLPGA Awards

Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner Is: In Gee Chun vs. Hyo Joo Kim all year

In Gee Chun vs. Hyo Joo Kim was the best yearlong Korean battle on any tour

Fans of the KLPGA tour were treated to a fantastic battle for Rookie of the Year on that tour in 2013, as two players jockeyed week after week for control of that title.  What made it all the more fun is, it didn’t look like it would be that way at the start of the season.  Coming into the year, Hyo Joo Kim had all the hype behind her.  She had just turned pro and signed the biggest rookie endorsement deal since Se Ri Pak.  Everyone expected her to win the Rookie of the Year, and in the end, that’s exactly what she did.  But she sure had to earn it, thanks to another teen and former national squad teammate of Kim’s named In Gee Chun.

At first, everything went Kim’s way.  She won the 2012 Hyundai China Ladies Open, only her second start as a rookie on tour.  Hyo Joo kept up the barrage early in the season, nearly winning the EDaily before a chip in by Mirim Lee allowed her to take it.  By late May, Kim had nearly double the rookie points Chun had.

Hyo Joo Kim wore a funny hat and still won her first KLPGA title as a member in late 2012

But then Chun had her breakout event at the Doosan Match Play.  She made it all the way to the final, where she duked it out with Ha Na Jang all day.  It was not until hole 16 where, all square, Chun hit a long birdie putt too hard and missed the par to go one down.  She wound up losing 2 down to Jang.  But the second place finish ignited her career and started her climb up the rookie standings.

In Gee Chun jump started her year at the Doosan Match Play

Hyo Joo looked poised to win the E1 Charity Open, but Bo Kyung Kim, who had not won in five years, somehow outlasted the rookie star.  Still, the second place finish (compared to 16th for Chun) allowed her to gain back some of her rookie race lead.

In late June, the KLPGA played the year’s first Major and most important tournament, the Korean Women’s Open.  The final round featured a final group pairing of three teen stars: Kyu Jung Baek, Chun and Kim.  Chun stared down Kim, who finished sixth, then ripped off four birdies in the final four holes to catch the leader So Yeon Park and grab the trophy.  For the first time all year, Chun was within 100 points of Kim in the Rookie standings, and had moved into the top five in scoring average and money list as well.  Game on!

In Gee in tears after capturing the Korean Women’s Open trophy

Although neither rookie won again in 2013, both players produced some great results as they fought it out for top honors among the newcomers.  Chun was in it almost to the end at the Nefs Masterpiece, but faltered at the last minute and finished tied for 11th .  The next event, Kim nearly won, finishing second; but Chun finished 6th to keep her rival close.  At the year’s second Major, Chun was in it until the final hole, when she missed a must-make putt to finish second.  Kim finished 4th.

And so it went, week after week, round after round.  It seemed like each week, Chun had a better total than Kim had had the week before, but Kim was able to do just well enough to maintain her lead.  The gap got as small as 38 points, with the two having over 1500 points each at the time.  But the rivalry finally ended at the year’s penultimate event, the ADT-CAPS.  Paired together with Kim in the first round, Chun began to feel neck pains as the round progressed, and finally had to drop out of the tournament with a neck injury after nine holes.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a season ending injury, and so the great battle ended with Chun unable to continue and Kim winning the Rookie of the Year by default.  Still, every indication is that these two will be rivals with each other for years to come.

Hyo Joo Kim meets the press

In Gee Chun had a great 2013

Honorable Mentions: Hee Kyung Seo vs. Amy Yang, Ha Na Bank

Both players made clutch birdie putts on the final hole to force a playoff with each other, but Amy hit a great approach and drained the birdie to win the event.

Inbee Park vs. So Yeon Ryu, Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

So Yeon had an untimely four putt in the final round to let Inbee Park back into the event.  They wound up in a playoff, which Park won in one hole when Ryu missed the green with her approach.

So Yeon Ryu vs. Sei Young Kim, Hanwha Classic

Ryu had this one in the bag, but on the final ten holes, Kim started dunking eagles from the fairway, including a hole-in-one on the 17th hole.  Ryu lost in a one-hole playoff.

Most Dominating Performance

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park, Kraft Nabisco final round

Inbee Park putts at the Kraft Nabisco

Inbee Park played brilliantly the entire week of the year’s first Major.  After the third round, she was in such a nice position on the leaderboard that only one player, Lizette Salas, was anywhere close to her.  Salas blew up on the very first hole in round 4, however, and from there Inbee sailed to a victory, never seriously worrying about being caught all day.

Honorable Mention: Lydia Ko, final round, CN Canadian Women’s Open

Lydia Ko started the final day of the CN Canadian Women’s Open in a tight battle for the crown with Solheim star Caroline Hedwall and #2 in the world Suzann Pettersen.  But in a matter of a few holes, she had put both those players on ice.  She seemed to be in complete control as she cruised to a dominating 5 shot win.

Cinderella of the Year

And the Winner Is: Il Hee Lee, Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

Il Hee Lee at the LPGA Award show in November. She had a breakout season with her first career win

Il Hee Lee already was having a strong season on the LPGA tour leading up to her first win at the inaugural Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.  Just a few weeks before that event, she chalked up a tie for 3rd at the Kingsmill Championship.  But still, she got her first career win after relatively few times in contention, and so earns the 2013 award for Cinderella of the season.

The Bahamas win was not an easy one.  The rains were so bad that the course was largely underwater as the week started.  The course superintendent was not able to get more than 12 holes playable, so the tournament went with the unique idea of playing three 12-hole rounds for a total of 36 holes for the week.

Il Hee in the Bahamas

Some players had a hard time adjusting.  Inbee Park, already the #1 player in the world thanks to her great play earlier in the season, missed her only cut of the year at this event.  But Lee played well all week.  In the final round she was paired with two Korean stars and thoroughly outdid them.  Perhaps the best moment of her week came on the penultimate hole.  The hole sat right next to the beach, and several players ended up taking their second shots from the sand right next to the ocean.  Lee hit a great drive that just cleared the sand and landed on the fairway, cutting a significant amount of distance off the hole by taking that bold path.  Later she had to deal with a bad squall, left her birdie putt six feet short of the hole, but still nailed a clutch par save when she needed it most.

She played the entire week with an ear-to-ear grin that made it easy to root her on.  Her reward, besides the Rolex watch, was getting drenched not in champagne but in shaving cream.  Which seems appropriate given the title sponsor of the event made that product!  Well done, Il Hee Lee!

Thumbs up from Il Hee after she was shaving creamed following her victory

Honorable Mention: Na Ri Lee wins in Japan (twice!)

Na Ri Lee is far from the top Korean player playing in Japan; she might not even be the top Korean player named Na Ri on that tour.  But she sure played well when it counted in 2013, and benefitted as well from being in the right place at the right time to claim two wins there!  At the Nichirei Ladies in late June, she notched her career best result to date, a tie for second.  A few months later, she topped that by winning the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open when Ai Miyazato made a costly late double bogey.  Luck again played a part in Lee’s second win a few weeks after that.  At the Fujitsu Ladies in October, rain washed out the final round, and Lee, the leader at that point, claimed the trophy without hitting a shot.

Best Comeback

And the Winner Is: Soo Yun Kang wins in Japan

Kangsy is back! Soo Yun in a glam pose from a Korean golf magazine following her win in Japan

In the late nineties, right after Se Ri Pak and Mi Hyun Kim left the KLPGA tour to try their luck in America, the next top player to emerge on that tour was Soo Yun Kang.  She pretty much dominated the events in the early years of the 2000s.  After a few years, she decided to follow Kim and Pak over to America, too, but found duplicating her success on the LPGA tour difficult.  She finally broke through with her only LPGA win in 2005 at the Safeway Classic, but after several years of struggling with injuries, she moved over to the Japanese tour to try her luck there.  She had better results, but still was not able to get a win.

Fast forward to 2013, and Kang was still winless in Japan — until the week of October 13th, when she pulled off the surprise victory at the Stanley Ladies event.  At 37 years of age, she became one of the oldest Koreans to notch a win in some time.  Congratulations to her; it’s never too late to make a comeback!

Honorable Mention: Shi Hyun Ahn notches a top ten in first golf action in two years

Shi Hyun Ahn at the 2013 ADT-CAPS

29-year-old Shi Hyun Ahn has been in the news more for her troubled marriage in the past two years than for her golf.  Two years ago, she met a South-American-Korean television personality who goes by the name of Marco, and sparks flew.  They married late in 2011, and just six months later, Shi Hyun had a daughter, Grace.  Unfortunately, there were also rumors at this time that the marriage was troubled, and at least one publicized incident where the police were called to stop a domestic disturbance that may have involved physical abuse (Ahn later dropped all charges).

Shi Hyun was invited to play at the ADT-CAPS on the KLPGA season in November.  She had not teed it up in a pro event in all of 2012 or 2013.  But she played extremely well, eventually finishing tied for 9th.  Yes, she made a top ten in her first event played in nearly two years.  That was the same score as KLPGA stars Ha Neul Kim and Hyo Joo Kim, and only five strokes out of first place.  She finished ahead of #7 in the world golfer Na Yeon Choi.

In late December, Shi Hyun signed with Sema Marketing Management, the same group that handles Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin among others.  She said that, after her marriage and daughter’s birth, she lost her motivation to work hard enough to maintain her pro career.  But since the top ten at the ADT, she has gained renewed interest in the game, and hopes to restart her career full force in 2014.  We’re all looking forward to it!

The Return of the KLPGA Awards Show

The KLPGA Awards Show did not go away in 2012, but for some reason, the press very lightly covered it compared to past years.  Luckily, in 2013, we once again got to see a lot of photos of this great showcase for the KLPGA stars.  Below are a few of the highlights from this year’s event!

Red Carpet arrivals!

Rookie star In Gee Chun

2013 tour winner Da Na Kim

Two-time KLPGA Money List Queen Ha Neul Kim

LPGA star Hee Young Park

2013 Tour winner Yoon Kyung Heo

2013 KLPGA Player of the Year Ha Na Jang

KLPGA Rookie of the Year Hyo Joo Kim

The ever-kicky KLPGA star Soo Jin Yang

The winners: Hyo Joo Kim for Rookie of the Year

Hyo Joo Kim collects her Rookie of the Year award

Bo Mee Lee made an appearance

Bo Mee Lee

This year, Ha Neul Kim was mostly in the audience…

Ha Neul Kim

… But they did get her onstage to give her lots of flowers for her one win this year

Lotsa flowers!

Ha Na Jang and Hyo Joo Kim were the night’s big winners

Hyo Joo Kim (L) and Ha Na Jang (R)

Ha Na Jang won the Money List, Player of the Year and tied for most wins with Sei Young Kim

Ha Na Jang

Sei Young Kim also won Most Popular, as voted by the fans!

Sei Young Kim

While Soo Jin Yang won the Best Dresser award (another fan choice)

Soo Jin Yang

Posted by: happyfan08 | January 2, 2014

2013 SeoulSisters Awards (1 of 6): Player of the Year

Hey folks! It’s time once again for the annual Seoul Sisters Awards for the best, weakest, and most interesting moments of the preceding year. Let’s get right to the action!

Player of the Year
And the Winner Is: Inbee Park

Inbee Park holds the most sought after award of all for Korean golfers: their first ever LPGA Player of the Year trophy

Usually I wait until the end to bestow this award, the highest honor of all the Seoulies. But for 2013, it is so apparent who is going to get this award that I might as well get it over with right away. Inbee Park simply was not only the top Korean player in the world in 2013, she was the top woman golfer, period, and had one of the very best years in the entire history of Korean golf, perhaps the very best (I’m not going to get into any arguments about her year vs. Se Ri Pak’s best years, but let’s just say Inbee’s 2013 stands proudly with even the greatest of the Hall-of-Famer’s seasons).

Inbee Park was our Player of the Year in 2012, but back then it was definitely a hard choice. Park was very consistent last year, but not as consistent as rookie So Yeon Ryu, who notched an astounding 16 top tens. Park had big wins, such as the Evian Masters, but did not win a Major like Na Yeon Choi, Sun Young Yoo and Jiyai Shin did. Nor was she creating history like teen phenoms Lydia Ko and Hyo Joo Kim. But what Inbee did have was two LPGA victories, the top position on the money list, and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. That was enough to give her the edge in a tough battle.

Spoils of Success: Inbee poses with the Ferrari given to her to drive by the Italian company

In 2013, Player of the Year wasn’t even close. Here are some of Inbee’s amazing accomplishments in 2013.

  • She won six total LPGA tournaments, the most ever won by a Korean in a single season. She was responsible for more than half the total wins accomplished by Koreans on tour in 2013, with no other Sister winning more than once.
  • She won three Majors in 2013; only Se Ri Pak has ever won more than one in a season, and she never won more than two.
  • She won those three Majors in a row to start the season, an astonishing achievement that had not been done on the LPGA tour since *1950*, the first year the tour existed. She is the only Korean to have had a legitimate chance to capture a calendar year Grand Slam, which would have been literally unthinkably great had she pulled it off.  No Korean has even won a career Grand Slam, let alone all in the same year.
  • She also managed three straight wins on tour in June, the first Korean to ever manage that feat.
  • She became the first Korean to lead the money list twice.
  • She had 11 top tens, which led the Koreans on tour
  • In April she became only the second Korean (after Jiyai Shin) to become the #1 golfer in the women’s game according to the Rolex Rankings. She held that position the rest of the year.
  • In 2013, she broke two million in season earnings for the second straight year, setting a new all time Korean record of $2,456,619 (and breaking her own previous record from last year). She is the only Korean to ever break $2 million in a season, and she’s done it twice.
  • And she topped it all off by becoming the first Korean to win the LPGA’s Player of the Year award.

Three for three: Inbee after winning the US Women’s Open

The past few seasons, Inbee often proved herself to be one of the most consistent players on tour, putting herself into contention on many occasions. But wins seemed to elude her. In 2010, she managed 11 top tens, including top tens in all four Majors. 2011 was an off-year, but starting at the LPGA Championship in 2012, she went on a torrid run that saw her collect two wins and many other near misses.

Still, what Inbee did in the first few months of 2013 was to take her game to a level far above what she had previously accomplished. Indeed, she won her very first start of the year on the LPGA, although she was assisted with a timely collapse on the final hole by Thai teenager Ariya Jutanugarn. Her next few events were far from impressive, however, and it looked like this might be another ordinary year for the star.

Inbee got accustomed to heightened press interest

But when she got to the Kraft Nabisco, the year’s first Major, something clicked in her brain, and for the first time the fans were treated to the Superstar that Inbee was to become. In round 2, she played like a machine, but it was round 3 in which she truly threw the gauntlet down to the tour. Her putting was almost surreal it was so precise and accurate. By the end of the day, she only had one player anywhere close to her, American Lizette Salas, a player who had never won on tour before. It took all of one hole on Sunday for Salas to fall apart, and Park cruised to a ridiculously easy second career Major triumph. She became just the third Korean to take the dive in Poppy’s Pond.

The week after the Nabisco she rose to #2 in the world rankings, and soon after that climbed to #1, supplanting the recently crowned #1, American Stacy Lewis. Many felt that Park had not truly earned the top ranking, being that she got it in an off week. But Park soon proved she belonged on top. At her next tournament, the Lotte Championship, she finished fourth. The next tournament after that, she won again, outdueling Spain’s Carlotta Ciganda down the stretch at the North Texas Shootout. It was her first win as a #1 player, and quieted the criticism fairly convincingly.

Inbee’s first win as #1: the North Texas Shootout

Inbee had some of her worst struggles of the year in May, including a missed cut, her only one of the season. But as June started, she began arguably the most dominant run in Korean golf history.

At the year’s second Major, the LPGA Championship, Park played brilliantly again, and found herself in a commanding position as the fourth round wound down. But at that point, she began to struggle. She missed fairway after fairway, resulting in several dropped shots. She somehow managed to hang on just enough to force a playoff with Catriona Matthew. But during the playoff, it was all Inbee. She managed to regroup, refocus, and return to the dominant form she had been showing just in the nick of time. Shortly thereafter, the year’s second Major was hers.

She barely slowed down after that. A few weeks later, she won the next LPGA tournament on the schedule, the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship, beating good friend So Yeon Ryu in a playoff. It was her fifth win of the year.

Always more publicity: at the Ferrari sponsorship signing in July

Then came the biggest test of her career. The US Women’s Open, the year’s biggest prize, was being contested at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island. Talk of the Grand Slam filled the air; Inbee was constantly asked about it. To make things even tougher, she was paired with her two biggest rivals, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen, in the first two rounds. Park responded by absolutely dominating them. She was seemingly making putts from everywhere, over and over again. Pettersen was so psyched out she missed the cut, while Lewis was never a factor. By the end of the second round, Park was in charge.

On the weekend, her biggest challenge came from fellow Korean star In Kyung Kim. But nothing was going to stop Inbee that week. She made a few mistakes here and there, but was always able to pull a rabbit from the hat when she needed it. The highlight of the entire year came in the third round when, after making several bogies, she sunk a downright ridiculous birdie putt from about 40 feet that traveled down a steep hill and dropped perfectly into the hole as if guided by angels. Kim tried her best on Sunday, but Park delivered the win, making history with the third straight Major win to start the year.

Inbee meets fans during a whirlwind trip back to Korea in late July

The rest of the season was a struggle for Inbee to battle the intense attention and pressure she received as she prepared to win the Slam at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews. She didn’t in fact contend that week, and did not win another event all year. But she fought off a huge challenge from Suzann Pettersen at the end of the year by notching two more top fives to secure her #1 ranking and the first ever LPGA Player of the Year award for a Korean golfer.

Inbee even attracted attention out of uniform, like here when she attended Hee Kyung Seo’s wedding in November

Congratulations to Inbee Park on her amazing 2013 season, and allow us to add a well deserved Player of the Year Seoulie award to her mantle!

Honorable Mention: Ha Na Jang

No other Korean even comes close to what Inbee accomplished in 2013, but Ha Na Jang did have a noteworthy season that would have been in the running any other year. She led the KLPGA tour in money earned and won the Player of the Year award while capturing three wins, tied (with Sei Young Kim) for the most wins on tour in 2013. Included in that tally was one tour Major, the Hite Cup. And she wasn’t done when the season ended; she captured another win at the Hyundai China Open in December to put her atop the KLPGA money list for 2014.

Best Start to the Season
And the Winner Is: Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko early in the year

Lydia Ko started 2013 as the top Women’s Amateur golfer in the world. Her first big tournament of the season came in defense of her title at the Australian Women’s Amateur. But she played poorly in match play and lost in the second round. Her rival Minjee Lee ended up collecting that title. It would be the final amateur event Ko would ever play, although nobody knew it at the time.

When she started playing professional events after that, she quickly returned to her usual form. She first was called upon to defend her title at the New South Wales Open. She had made history there in 2012 by collecting the trophy and thus becoming the youngest female to ever win a professional event. Indeed, she had almost won the event the previous year, losing only to Caroline Hedwall. As it turned out, Hedwall won again in 2013 while Ko finished second in her defense. Ko was denied the chance to become the youngest player to ever defend a professional title, but it was still a great result.

The next week, she played in her adopted country’s biggest golf tournament, the New Zealand Women’s Open. She was under intense scrutiny, featured on all the event’s posters, yet she stayed in contention all week, finally claiming the prize when her two biggest rivals both three putted the final hole. She called it her most emotional win to date.

Lydia is beside herself after winning the New Zealand Women’s Open

Ko was on a roll, and next played in the Australian Women’s Open, the opening event of the LPGA season. Paired with world #1 Ya Ni Tseng in round one, she produced a jaw dropping 10 under par 63 that included 11 birdies, an eagle and three bogies. Jiyai Shin, another Korean star, got all the way to 14 under par after two rounds, but Ko only needed nine holes to catch her. Paired together with Shin in the final round, Ko got off to a terrible start, but recovered and hung in while Tseng made a run and Shin struggled to maintain the lead. In the end, Shin got the win and Ko faded to third, but three top-three finishes including a win in her first three pro events of the year is a great start by any standard!

Jiyai Shin and Ko share a laugh after Shin’s win over Ko at the Aussie Open

Honorable Mentions: Inbee Park wins her first event of the year

OK, it was largely thanks to Ariya Jutanugarn muffing the final hole, but Inbee did win her first LPGA event of the season, which is always a great way to start any season!

Jiyai Shin Wins in Australia

Jiyai Shin enjoys her Australian Women’s Open trophy

As we said above, Jiyai played great in claiming her only win of the 2013 season, which also happened to be her first tournament of the year.

Biggest Disappearing Act
And the ‘Winner’ Is: Char Young Kim

Char Young Kim struggled in 2013

This was a tough award to choose. Many of the top players on the LPGA tour had subpar seasons. In fact, after Inbee, the next three top ranked Koreans (So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, IK Kim) at the end of the year (not including New Zealand transplant Lydia Ko) all failed to win in 2013. Choi saw her ranking drop from second to 7th. It’s tempting to pick her for this dubious honor, but really, she had a decent year in a lot of ways. Had things gone a little better for her, she might have won the HSBC and British Open, two of the most important events of the year. And she made nearly a million bucks during the season, with 8 top tens. So she hardly disappeared, even if 2013 was a weaker season than her last few.

Char Young Kim managed three wins on the KLPGA in 2012, and none in 2013. That in itself is significant, but what really hurt Kim is that she almost never was a factor in any event all year. She did not even have her first top ten until October at the Rush and Cash Classic, where she finished tied for third. It would be her only top ten of the season, and even there, she was never a factor, as Ha Na Jang ran away with the title. More often, she was missing cuts or struggling in the middle of the pack. She wound up 36th on the money list for the year.

Char Young

Kim did manage a fifth place finish at the second event of the 2014 season, the Hyundai China Ladies Open, which took place in mid-December. It’s probably too early to tell if Char Young’s career going forward will be more like the star of 2012 or the nonentity of 2013, but hopefully the China result shows that she’s back heading in the right direction!

Best Korean Finish
And the Winner Is: US Women’s Open: first Korean 1-2-3 finish at the Open

The past three US Women’s Open winners celebrate Inbee Park’s 2013 triumph. So Yeon Ryu (right) finished third in 2013 behind Park.

The focus that week was on Inbee Park trying to become the first player in 60 years to start the season with three straight Majors. Park succeeded in accomplishing that amazing feat. But lost in the shadows was the fact that it was also the greatest finish at a Major in Korean golf history, with the top three spots all going to Korean golfers. Park won with an 8 under total, with In Kyung Kim finishing solo second four shots behind her, and So Yeon Ryu finishing third at 1 under. Ryu was two shots ahead of fourth place, and the three Koreans were the only players to finish under par for the week.

Honorable Mention: Swinging Skirts dominated by Koreans

Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu enjoy the Swinging Skirts tournament in December

The Swinging Skirts is an event held annually in Taiwan in December that attracts a stellar international field of top players. This year it was Korean New Zealander Lydia Ko who won the event, but the leaderboard was studded with Korean stars. Granted, being that this event is now an official one on the KLPGA tour, there are more Korean golfers here than in a typical international event. But still, the results were something else. Besides Ko winning, you had world #5 So Yeon Ryu finishing second, world #1 Inbee Park third, KLPGA Rookie of the Year Hyo Joo Kim tied with 2014 KLPGA rookie Kyu Jung Baek for fourth, and 2013 KLPGA Player of the Year Ha Na Jang tied for sixth. In other words, the top five players and one of the sixth place players were all of Korean extraction.

Posted by: happyfan08 | July 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Opens

The past two weeks saw the playing of two of the most important women’s golf events of the year.  In Korea, the Korean Women’s Open was contested from June 20-23rd.  The following week, the US Women’s Open was played at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island.  Both tournaments had fascinating stories, with the Korean Open title going to a newborn star, while the US Open title ended up with a woman in the process of making history.

The Kia Korean Women’s Open

The KLPGA tour has four Majors every year, but without question the most important of these is the Korean Women’s Open.  This event is usually contested in early summer and features the cream of the KLPGA crop and best amateurs in the country.  Among the great players who have recently won this event are Hee Kyung Seo, Soo Jin Yang, and the budding star Mirim Lee, who was the defending champion.

Coming into this event, the dominant player on tour in 2013 had been Ha Na Jang, who was in control of the money list and Player of the Year race.  Other top players who looked to contend included former champs Lee and Yang and Rookie superstar Hyo Joo Kim, who was trying to put a stranglehold on the Rookie of the Year race.  The top star of the past two years, Ha Neul Kim, has struggled in 2013, and was hoping to get on track again.

But by the end of the second round, it was another up-and-coming rookie who sat in the lead: In Gee Chun.  The 18-year-old had been a teammate of Kim’s on the Korean National team, but being a little older, she had turned pro last year and played on a developmental tour to hone her game.  Now a full-fledged KLPGA rookie, she told the press her top goal was to win the Rookie of the Year this year.  After shooting a 68-69 over the first two days, she sat at 7 under total and alone in the lead.  But Kim was among those just a couple of shots back, and the stage was set for a battle of teen stars.

In Gee Chun during round 2 of the Korean Women’s Open

The story got even more interesting after Saturday’s action was complete.  Yet another teenage former national team member, Kyu Jung Baek, vaulted over both Kim and Chun to take the third round lead.  Baek was not even a member of the KLPGA; she had only recently turned pro and was playing the Dream tour in 2013.  But she was in the field this week, and after a third round 67 held a one shot lead over Kim and Chun, who were tied for second.  The three teens would be paired in the final group on Sunday with the biggest event of the year on the line.  The future has arrived early!

Kyu Jung Baek took the third round lead at the Open

Hyo Joo Kim was enjoying herself during round 3

As it turned out, there was yet another rookie (not a teenager, a twenty year old.  How ancient!) who threw herself into the mix on Sunday.  So Yeon Park got out to a great start and took a several stroke lead by the turn.  Hyo Joo Kim, the most heralded rookie on tour since the days of Se Ri Pak, faltered on this day and faded to a tie for 6th.  That left Baek and Chun to try to catch Park.  But Baek parred out most of her final nine, not making birdie until the very last hole.  She finished third.

Kyu Jung Baek on the final day of the Open

Chun seemed similarly stalled most of her round.  By the 14th hole, she was still even for the day.  But then she kicked it into another gear, thrilling the crowd as she made birdie after birdie.  In fact, she made birdie on her final four holes, the last one giving her the one-shot win over Park.  Chun made a huge statement in front of her biggest rival for Rookie of the Year, on the biggest stage the Korean tour presents.  The Major winner broke down in tears at the trophy ceremony, thrilled she was able to capture the great victory.

In Gee Chun had a great finish to her first Major win

Chun was overcome with emotion during her trophy acceptance speech

Chun did not exactly come out of nowhere, however.  Besides her notable achievements as a member of the Korean national team, she had contended at a KLPGA Major before.  The tall teen (5’9”) entered the 2011 Hite Cup, the third Major of that season, and despite the presence of US Women’s Open champ So Yeon Ryu, took a big lead going into the final nine holes.  She was up by as much as four strokes and looked likely to become a Major champion, but suffered a major setback thanks to a triple bogey and a few other mistakes late.  Player of the Year Ha Neul Kim took advantage, grabbing the crown away at almost the last moment from the young star.

It didn’t take long for Chun to bounce back and get her Major trophy.  The win at the Korean Women’s Open came after a promising start to her season.  She notched her first great finish at the Woori Financial in May, a tie for 5th.  At the next event, the Doosan Match Play, she made it all the way to the final before losing to Ha Na Jang in a closely fought match.  Her next three finishes were all top 20s, preparing her for the win at the Open.

Will she be able to wrestle the Rookie of the Year award away from Hyo Joo Kim?  After the Open win, she was less than 100 points behind Kim.  At the least, Kim would have to work to get the award.  It ought to be interesting to see what these two talented teens do next!

In Gee Chun is a player to watch!

The US Women’s Open

The most important women’s golf event in the world without question is the US Women’s Open.  This year, it was contested at Sebonack on Long Island.  Amazingly, it was the first time a Women’s Open had ever been played on Long Island, and the first time any USGA event had occurred at this prestigious and beautiful new course.

The Koreans have done really well at this event in the past five years, collecting four titles and many other top ten finishes.  The defending champion, Na Yeon Choi, would be there trying to become the first Korean to repeat as champion.  But all eyes were on another Korean star, Inbee Park, who was riding an incredible wave of great golf.  Coming into the week, Park had won the two previous events on tour, and was looking to become the first Korean to ever win three straight LPGA events (not even Se Ri Pak has managed that feat).    More amazingly, she had also won the first two Majors on tour in 2013, and looked to become only the fourth woman ever to win three in a season.  In fact, only one woman had ever won the first three Majors of any season, and that was Babe Zaharias back in 1950, the first year the LPGA existed.  Needless to say, all eyes were on Park to see if she could pull off the historic feat.

Na Yeon Choi won the Open in 2012

Inbee took a circuitous route to this point in her career.  After winning the 2008 US Women’s Open at the age of 19 (the youngest ever), it would take her four years to return to the winner’s circle on the LPGA.  It was not like she was playing bad golf; she had several wins in Japan during that span, and still managed frequent top tens in Majors.  But her game did not really click until her fiancé took over as her swing coach.  At last year’s LPGA Championship, she notched her first top ten of the year, and proceeded to rip off ten in a row, including two wins, after that.

After her win at this year’s Kraft Nabisco, the first major of 2013, Park rose to the number one ranking for the first time.  Many thought it wouldn’t last; the previous longtime #1 women’s golfer, Ya Ni Tseng, had found the pressure of maintaining that spot too much to bear.  But Park quickly won just a few weeks later, then followed her win at the Kraft with a win at the year’s second Major, the Wegman’s LPGA Championship.  She seemed to enjoy being number one, and didn’t fret too much about losing that position should that happen.

Inbee’s second Major win of 2013, the Wegman’s LPGA Championship

Still, it was a new level of pressure she faced at Sebonack.  She was the prohibitive favorite coming in, and was paired with the #2 and #3 golfers in the world the first two days.  If there were a crack in her armor, it was bound to be exposed.  But Park played the exact same way those two days she had played all year.  On her very first hole of the week, she hit her approach to a foot for an easy birdie.  She produced a 5 under par 67 on Thursday, taking the lead for most of the day before KLPGA star Ha Neul Kim topped her with a 66 in the late afternoon.  #2 Stacy Lewis had shot 71, while #3 Suzann Pettersen was four over par.

On the second day, Park continued her relentless drive to the top.  While first round leader Ha Neul Kim struggled, Park’s calm, cool attitude propelled her to a 68, giving her a two shot lead over fellow Korean In-Kyung Kim.  Kim’s story was an interesting one: she had famously missed a one-foot putt on the final hole of last year’s Kraft Nabisco, costing herself that title.  Still in search of her first Major, she would play the entire weekend with Inbee, trying to find some way to top the indomitable star.  Interestingly, they had met in the USGA cauldron before.  Back in 2005, Kim’s first year in the States, she had topped Park at the US Girls Junior in the finals.

IK Kim in round 2 of the Open

Park continued her stellar play on Saturday, but started to run into trouble for the first time all week on the back nine.  She had a couple of bogies on the 11th and 12th holes that she considered respectable, but when she also bogied the par 5 13th, she started to get mad.  Things didn’t get easier on the 14th hole; she put her ball on a top shelf well above the flag, while her two playing partners, Kim and Britain’s Jodi Ewart-Shadoff, were both within birdie range.  They would both make birdie, but so did Park, who hit an absolutely perfectly judged putt that loped down the slope, picked up speed, then dropped perfectly in the cup for a birdie to end her bogey train.  She birdied the next hole as well, and by the end of the day, had carved out a four shot lead over Kim.  Her one-under-par 71 was the only under par round by anyone all day.

Inbee during round 3 of the Open

Through three rounds, Park’s tee-to-green game had been fantastic.  She had only missed four fairways to that point and had hit most of the greens.  But what separated her from the rest, as it always did, was her otherworldly putting.  She had putting rounds of 25, 28 and 28 putts, putting her on pace to be the first Open winner to average less than 30 putts/round since she herself had done it in 2008.

The pressure was ratcheted up on Inbee on Sunday, but she never wavered much.  It was by far her worst round of the week, a 2 over par 74, but she never made worse than a bogey, and had at least three lipouts during the day.  Even when she missed, she didn’t miss by much.  IK Kim tried her best, but her putter was not working, and she, too, shot a 74.  In the end, only three players finished under par for the week, all Korean.  2011 champ So Yeon Ryu was at -1 and solo third, Kim at 4 under and solo second.  But it was Inbee who was rightfully the star, finishing at 8 under for the four shot win and her third straight Major.  Despite all the attention, she held her composure and gotten the job done when it mattered most.  She was rewarded on the 18th green by a champagne bath courtesy of Ryu and Na Yeon Choi, the past two US Women’s Open champions.

Three US Women’s Open champs celebrate Inbee’s amazing win

Inbee set all sorts of Korean records with her win: the first Korean to ever win six events in a season, and the first to collect three straight Majors and win three straight LPGA events.  She was also the first to win the Open twice.  Her money total climbed above $2 million for the second straight year, more money than the next two players on the money list combined.

After her amazing accomplishment, the golf world sat up and took notice.  She became the first Korean golfer to appear on the Today show, and did interviews for several sports shows.  Almost immediately, the talk turned to the possibility that she could win four Majors in a row.  Next up is the Women’s British Open, which this year takes place at St. Andrews, the home of golf.  If she somehow manages to win that event at that location for four straight, it would be one of the most epic achievements in recent golf history.

Inbee holds her Open trophy near Rockefeller Center after appearing on the Today Show

There is some confusion as to what you would call winning four Majors on the LPGA tour.  In years past, the LPGA usually had only four Majors, so winning all four would be considered a Grand Slam, the most hallowed of all feats in golf.  But this year, darn the luck, the LPGA added a fifth Major to the rotation, the Evian Championship.  It certainly would be far more resonant if Park were going for the biggest achievement in golf at the most important locale in the game’s history than if she merely would get 4/5 of the Slam with a win there.  But whatever you call what she will be trying to do next month in Scotland, she has already had a historically great year, and we should not forget to celebrate that in the rush to look ahead.

At the end of the event, Park told the press, ‘it’s scary to think what I’m capable of doing’.  She wasn’t bragging, just saying that it was scary that she had this extremely rare chance to make history in the next month.  She had never even considered she could do what she had already achieved, and realized the next step would be pressure like she had never imagined.  But she alone had the chance to make that history, and she was excited to have the chance.  The whole golf world will be watching closely next month to see if she can actually do it!  Best of luck to her!!

Three Majors – a truly historic achievement

Posted by: happyfan08 | June 20, 2013

Inbee Park: Dominant Blood

She could feel the championship slipping away from her.  Sunday, June 9th, was the final round of the second Major on the LPGA tour, the Wegman’s LPGA Championship.  Bad weather had forced the tour to play 36 holes on this day, and by the late afternoon, the middle of the final 18 holes, the players were exhausted.  Inbee Park, the world’s #1 women’s golfer and the winner of the year’s first Major, had taken the lead in the morning 18 thanks to a brilliant 68.  But as the final nine holes wore on, she realized she was in trouble.  Her driving, usually so dependable, was highly erratic.  On this course, with high rough and a multitude of trees, missing the fairway was a ticket to a bogey – or worse.  And time and again, Park was missing fairways and putting herself in trouble.

Somehow she pressed on, but despite her famous short game and best-in-the-league putting, she was starting to make bogies.  On hole 14.  Then on 16.  Her lead continued to shrink.  Catriona Matthew had finished her day at 5 under, and Inbee was now at 6 under.  She could not afford to give away too many more strokes.  After scrambling for par on the par 5 17th, she reached the final hole needing a par to win, bogey to tie.  She did not want to consider anything worse than that, but she had in fact made double bogey at this very hole on the first day.

Inbee during the final round of the LPGA Championship

Her drive went into the rough again.  It was buried so deep that she could barely advance it from where it lay.  And for her third shot, she was still in the rough.  Somehow she powered it out of there, hit the green and watch it roll to the fringe.  From there, she set her short game to work, chipping to within a foot and draining the bogey putt to tie Matthew and force a playoff.  It had not been pretty, but Inbee Park showed that, even when exhausted, even when much of her great game was abandoning her, she still had the will to win that all true champions possess.

In the few minutes between ending her regulation play and starting the playoff, Park regrouped.  She told herself that she was going to hit the fairway on the next drive no matter what.  Hitting the fairway became her sole purpose in life at that moment.  As further motivation, her caddie promised to buy her a dinner every time she hit the fairway during the playoff.

Park and Matthew played three playoff holes.  Inbee hit two fairways, and missed the third by a foot.  It was Matthew who couldn’t keep the ball straight.  On the third playoff hole, Inbee sealed the victory by sinking an 18 footer for birdie on the very hole that had very nearly ended her title prospects 40 minutes earlier.  With that, she entered rarefied air: she became only the third LPGA golfer in the past 40 years to win the year’s first two Majors, and the first Korean to ever do it.  She wouldn’t have much time to rest: the US Women’s Open week would begin in just two weeks.  But no matter how she fares there, with her exploits thus far in 2013, she has managed to establish herself as the next great Korean star.

Inbee’s second Major title of 2013

A year ago, the kind of stardom Park now enjoys seemed very far away indeed.  She was ranked 26th in the world, and had not won an LPGA tournament since 2008.  She had seemed on the fast track to stardom before that.  A star in the junior ranks, she had notched two top tens in LPGA events while still an amateur.  She tried to join the tour while still underage, but was not granted a special exemption to do so, and wound up playing on the Futures Tour in 2006.  She did well there, earning an LPGA card by finishing third on the developmental tour’s money list.  Her rookie year was decent, although she had no wins and finished behind Angela Park for Rookie of the Year.  Then, just shy of her 20th birthday, Park surprised the world by capturing her first Major, the US Women’s Open, in 2008.  She became the youngest to ever win that title, beating the record formerly held by her idol, Se Ri Pak.  Inbee seemed poised to become a big star.

Inbee made the cover of Golf World after her Open win. Love the caption!

But the path to the top proved more circuitous than Park had envisioned.  She played decently the next few years on tour, but wins eluded her.  She was still making top tens in Majors (she had four in 2010 alone), and had multiple wins and top finishes when she played on the Japanese LPGA tour.  But her status on the LPGA continued to slide.  In 2011 she only finished 31st on the money list, with just three top tens.  The start of 2012 was little better: she missed the top ten in her first nine starts that year.

Meanwhile, though she didn’t realize it at the time, she had the secret to her emergence in her pocket all along.  Her fiancé was also a professional golfer, and when she finally got tired of her swing not behaving as it should, she asked him for his advice.  Before long, his lessons bore fruit, and Park began to play well again.  More than well: she went from a solid golfer with moments of brilliance to a relentless money machine who seemed to put herself within reach of the trophy week after week.

Interestingly, her incredible run to the top started at the 2012 LPGA Championship, where she made her first top ten of the season, a 9th.  She would rip off ten straight top tens in total, and more often than not, she would be in the hunt for the title.  At the very next event, in fact, the Manulife Financial, she lost in a playoff.  She followed that with a 4th place in Arkansas and a 9th at the US Women’s Open,.  Finally, at the next event, the Evian Masters, she found herself in the hunt on Sunday with a great chance to at last get her second career LPGA win.  She would in fact break through with the win that week, and in spectacular fashion, producing one of the greatest putting performances in LPGA history.  She needed only 22 putts on Sunday, and 98 for the week, to take the trophy.  Among those she beat that week was Stacy Lewis, with whom she played in the final round.

Inbee arrives back in Korea in 2012 after her Evian win

Park continued to notch great finish after great finish: a tie for third at the Farr; a second at the Canadian Women’s Open; another second at the year’s final Major, the Women’s British Open; then her second win of the year at the Sime Darby in Malaysia.  Inbee finished the year becoming the first Korean to ever break $2 million in a single season.  She led the tour’s money list and also won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average.

Then came the 2013 season, and amazingly, Inbee got even better!  She started the year by winning her first event of the season, the Honda Thailand, although she was greatly aided when Thai teen star Ariya Jutanugarn made a triple bogey on the final hole to give the win to Inbee as she sat in the clubhouse.  Interestingly, Inbee did not play all that well the next few events, although she did narrowly miss a win in an LET event in China, finishing second there to Suzann Pettersen.  But at the year’s first LPGA Major, Inbee was back and ready to rock.  She went toe-to-toe with new American starlet Lizette Salas in round 3, and by the end of that day, she had a three shot lead on her and a huge lead on the rest of the field.  On Sunday, the two played together, but on the very first hole, Salas faltered and Park carved a huge lead over her and everyone else.  Inbee showed she could play with a big lead, cruising to an easy victory for the second Major title of her career.  She took the traditional dive into Poppie’s Pond, and made sure to save a bottle of water for her father, who had not been able to make the tournament.  A few weeks later, she would dump the water over his head at the swimming pool in Hawaii, allowing him to share in the special winner’s celebration he had only seen on TV.

Inbee celebrates her first Major win of 2013 at the Kraft Nabisco

The Major win moved Inbee to 2nd in the world, and the following week, in which no event was played, the new calculations put her ahead of Stacy Lewis and made her the new world’s #1 player.  Everyone, no less Inbee, was surprised by how quickly she had ascended to the top.  There were a few grumbles that Inbee had benefitted from arcane mathematics to take over the top spot, and many in the American press felt Lewis would quickly usurp Park again.  Inbee, for her part, was not worried.  She was happy to be #1, and hoped to hold on to that spot, but was just going to concentrate on having fun as long as it lasted.  She seemed far less stressed about being the top gun than the past few players who had held that title had been.

Of course, Inbee had reason to be confident: her consistency allowed her to contend frequently.  She finished 4th at the first event she played as #1, then won her third LPGA event of the year (and fifth win in less than a year) at the North Texas LPGA Shootout.  No Korean since Se Ri in her prime has been able to win events at a more rapid pace.

Inbee with another trophy this year, this time in Texas

Inbee traveled to Japan to play in a Major event and injured her hand, which resulted in some unusually poor play from her the next couple of events.  Even so, she remained the top player, and in fact solidified her lead.  And so it was as she entered the year’s second Major.

Inbee, Jiyai Shin and Na Yeon Choi are not only the three top Korean golfers in the world: they also were the defending champs at the three previously played Majors.  The three of them met the press in Rochester to talk about their experiences.  Inbee was asked, as she often is, what makes the Korean ladies so good at golf.  She shrugged and said, jokingly, ‘I think maybe we have dominant blood’.

Maybe she was on to something.  The conditions were tough in Rochester: deep rough, tight fairways, and tons of rain made the course play very hard.  The first day was washed out, and after playing the next two rounds, several Korean golfers sat in the top ten, vying for the crown.  All three of the Korean Major winners were in the hunt on Sunday.  Jiyai wound up tied for 5th, Na Yeon tied for 9th.  Amy Yang, another Korean who excels at Majors, also finished tied for 5th, while up-and-coming young star Chella Choi, playing with Inbee in the final round, notched her own 5th for her best ever Major finish.

Chella Choi had her career best Major finish, a tie for 5th

But it was Inbee Park’s week, and she set several impressive marks in winning her third career Major.  She became the first Korean to ever win the first two Majors in a year, and only the second to win four titles in a year (the record is five, achieved twice by Se Ri Pak).  She now has more Majors than any Korean other than Se Ri, and since the Evian has achieved six LPGA wins.  Her seven total career wins ties her with Na Yeon Choi and puts her behind only Mi Hyun Kim (8), Jiyai Shin (11) and Se Ri Pak (25).

Can Inbee Park do the unthinkable and win the calendar Grand Slam?  Even winning one more Major would make her the only Korean to ever win three in a year.  With the Evian a newly minted Major, it would seem to be harder than ever to win them all.  In Inbee’s favor, besides her love of Majors and great consistency, is that she has already won a US Women’s Open and Evian title, and finished as high as second at the British.  She knows she can compete at these events.  But if she really gets into the heat on Sunday at the Open, how will she handle the unprecedented pressure?  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to find out!

Win the Slam or not, Inbee Park has firmly established herself as the top gun on the ladies tour.  It should be quite a ride to see how much more she can accomplish in the months and years ahead!

Inbee gives the fans her winning game ball from the LPGA Championship

Posted by: happyfan08 | April 10, 2013

2013 KLPGA Primer

It’s early April, and that means it’s time once again for the Korean LPGA season to start in earnest.  As in past years, there were previous events that counted towards this season contested in December of the previous year.  But unlike in the past, there were two events in that special ‘pre-season’ timeframe, one more than previously: the Swinging Skirts in Taiwan, and the Hyundai Ladies China Open in China.

Here now is a preview of what to expect as the action heats up!

Top Stars

This season, no major stars from the tour are leaving to play on other tours.  In most years, the KLPGA loses a few name players, but for whatever reason, the top players on tour decided to stay put this time.  The following are the players who look to be big names on the tour in 2013.

Ha Neul Kim – Money List Queen

Ha Neul Kim

Without any question, Ha Neul Kim comes into the 2013 season as the Queen of the KLPGA tour.  She repeated for the second straight year as top money earner in 2012, and also grabbed the title for low scoring average.  She just narrowly missed out on the trifecta by finishing second in Player of the Year, and only managed a single win in 2012 compared to three in 2011, but otherwise it was another stellar year for the fashionable star.

Kim has stated that she has no interest in going to a Qualifying School for another tour, and hopes to win membership on the LPGA or JLPGA by winning a tournament.  Former KLPGA stars Jiyai Shin, So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung Seo all earned LPGA membership in just this way.  To this end, Kim played in several international tournaments in 2012.  She didn’t win, but did achieve a career best international finish (a tie for second at the Australian Ladies Masters), a best Major result when she finished tied for 11th at the Kraft Nabisco, and a best ever finish on the LPGA, a tie for 7th at the Hana Bank Championship.  If Kim continues to play internationally in 2013, she might just be able to earn that tour card as she is planning.

Ha Neul with her lone trophy of 2012 @ the Rush & Cash tournament

Meanwhile, she was extremely consistent on the KLPGA.  Though she had only one win, she finished outside the top 20 in only three tour events, with 10 top tens.  This total included the win, two seconds and three thirds.  She started the 2013 season with a 9th at the Swinging Skirts and a 10th in China, and nearly made a top ten in the first LPGA event she played, the Kia Classic, where she finished tied for 13th.  She added a tie for 52nd at the year’s first Major, the Kraft Nabisco.

Kim will definitely face big challenges on the KLPGA in 2013 (see below!), but still looks good to be one of the big names in Korean golf in the coming year.

Ha Neul

Char Young Kim – Most Popular and Most Wins

Char Young Kim with one of her three 2012 trophies

One of the breakout stars of the 2012 season was Char Young Kim.  Before last year, Kim was primarily known for her looks and style.  She had been featured in several magazine articles and layouts in Korea.  Her game was not bad by any means (she finished 19th on the tour money list in 2011), but she was hardly one of the top names on tour.

That all changed in a big way in 2012.  Kim notched three KLPGA wins that season, the most of any player on tour.  Included among those victories were back-to-back titles at the Woori Investment & Securities Ladies Championship and the Doosan Match Play.  Winning the Match Play event on tour is particularly tough, because it involves playing so many rounds of golf, and she wound up defeating a tough opponent, 2011 Rookie of the Year Yeon Jun Jung, 2 & 1 in the final.  Kim was also voted the Most Popular player by the tour fans in 2012.

The biggest knock on Kim is that she has not yet achieved a lot of consistency.  She finished third on the tour money list largely because of those three wins.  She did have four other top tens, but generally was well out of the other events she played.  If she can find a way to grab more high finishes even when her game is not on track, she could definitely challenge for the top spot on tour in 2013.  But regardless, expect her to attract a lot of attention in 2013.

Char Young did a lot of publicity events in 2012, like tossing out a ceremonial pitch at a baseball game

Je Yoon Yang – The Player of the Year Surprise

Je Yoon Yang, 2012’s KLPGA Player of the Year

Je Yoon Yang was probably the biggest surprise of all on the 2012 KLPGA tour.  She joined the tour in 2011 as an unheralded 18-year-old, and had a decent but unspectacular year, finishing 44th on the money list with three top tens.

But in 2012, she broke out in a big way.  She had a couple of top fives in the first half of the season, but it was in the late summer and fall that she really climbed into the stratosphere.  She had her first career win at the Nefs Masterpiece, and found herself atop the Player of the Year standings soon thereafter.  Ha Neul Kim rallied and recaptured the lead, but Yang continued to hang in with one great finish after another.  She managed a third at the year’s third Major and a second at the final one.  Thus, with one event to go in the season, she was only a few points behind Kim.  She just needed to finish ahead of Kim in the year’s final event, the ADT-CAPS, and she would be Player of the Year.  She did more than that: she won the event to become POY with an exclamation point.

Je Yoon Yang at the 2012 Doosan Match Play

So what’s next for the 20-year-old?  The KLPGA has seen players have great years before only to fade the following season.  Hyun Hwa Shim, for instance, was second on the tour money list in 2011, but last year she missed a ton of cuts and did not even finish in the top 50.  Time will tell if Yang is a one hit wonder, but for the moment she is definitely one of the players to watch for 2013.

Soo Jin Yang – the Sleeper

Soo Jin Yang

Year after year, one of the most consistent stars on the KLPGA tour is Soo Jin Yang.  Still only 21, Yang has been a tour member for four years, and finished in the top five on the money list the past three seasons.  In 2012, she had one win and 8 other top tens, including a second and a third.  She finished fifth on the tour money list.  She has also started making waves in international competition.  She finished tied for third at the year-ending Swinging Skirts event in Taiwan, facing a field of most of the top women golfers in the world.  Just a few weeks ago, she played in the field at the Ladies European Tour’s China event, the Mission Hills World Championship, and notched a tie for 4th.

Yang hasn’t won any year-ending awards, but her consistency and length off the tee – she has been one of the longest drivers on the KLPGA for several years – makes her a constant threat to become the top player on tour.  She seems to just be reaching the age where she might take her game to the next level.  With all the focus on Ha Neul Kim the past few years, Yang sometimes gets forgotten, but she has all the ingredients to be a big star, perhaps even this season.

Soo Jin posed for Golf Digest Korea last year

Hyo Joo Kim – The Rookie Sensation

Hyo Joo Kim

Like a freight train coming, Hyo Joo Kim has been making an increasing amount of noise in the world of women’s golf over the past few seasons.  Still just 17 years old (she turns 18 this July), Kim has been contending at KLPGA events since she was 14.  Meanwhile, she had quietly become one of the top amateurs in the world, leading the Korean national team to all sorts of impressive international victories in the process.

In 2012, however, Kim took her game to an all new level.  As a 16-year-old, she played at the KLPGA’s LotteMart Ladies Open and absolutely destroyed the field.  She ended up winning the event by a staggering 9 shots, the second largest win an amateur had ever managed on that tour (the largest was ten shots by none other than Se Ri Pak back in 1995).  She beat Ha Neul Kim that week by 13 shots; and Ha Neul finished THIRD.

A few months later, Kim played her first ever Japanese tour event.  In the final round, she shot a league record 61 to come from behind and capture a four-shot win.  She became the youngest girl to ever win on the JLPGA, breaking the record held by the legendary Ai Miyazato.  Kim would go on to capture another pro event in Taiwan and finish fourth on the LPGA tour at the Evian Masters in France, all before turning pro in October.  Lydia Ko, the New Zealand sensation, got far more press, but Kim actually won MORE pro events last year in a shorter time span than even Ko did, and she was only a year and a half older than the Kiwi.

In December, Hyo Joo won her first event as a KLPGA member while wearing a funny hat

Kim joined the KLPGA as a rookie in December, and wasted no time making her mark.  She won her second event as a member, the Hyundai China Ladies Open.  Thus, she became the quickest to ever grab a win on the KLPGA after turning pro.

Hyo Joo Kim has all the makings of a superstar.  She signed the largest sponsorship deal (with Lotte) for a Rookie on the KLPGA since Se Ri Pak.  She already has two career KLPGA wins and is months away from her 18th birthday.  She notched an 8th place at the LET’s Mission Hills event a few weeks ago.  She not only is the prohibitive favorite for Rookie of the Year in 2013, she should contend for all the top awards on tour.  Watch out for Hyo Joo Kim in 2013!

Other Rookies who could challenge Hyo Joo Kim

It’s difficult to find a list of KLPGA Rookies on the internet or on their website.  Some players who turned pro in 2013 in fact will play on a developmental tour and not be true rookies.  Among the players who look likely to be tour rookies this year:

Jung Min Cho was the #1 ranked amateur in the world just a few years ago.  Playing as Cecilia Cho, she was based in New Zealand and broke all sorts of records as youngest player to accomplish various things, before she ran into an even younger and better Korean-born player named Lydia Ko.  Now a pro, Cho played last year on the KLPGA’s Dream Tour.  She’s in the field for the LotteMart Ladies Open and looks likely to be a full-time KLPGA rookie this year.  If so, she would definitely be someone who could challenge Hyo Joo Kim.  Kim, for all her accomplishments, never managed to reach #1 in the amateur ranks (her highest ranking was #2).

Jung Eun Han was one of Hyo Joo Kim’s teammates on the Korean National team a few years ago.  Like Kim, Han contended in multiple KLPGA tournaments as a teenager.  When she turned pro, she joined the Dream Tour, where in 2012 she won three times, finished second three other times, and topped the money list.  If she can get anywhere near to the form she had as an amateur, she could be a big star in the pro ranks.

Seon Woo Bae played on the Jump Tour last year, where she was a dominant presence.  She has a great record there:  four wins, one second, and two other top tens in 12 tournaments (only two finishes outside the top 20). Earlier this year she shot a 64 at the LET’s New Zealand Ladies Open and finished fourth.

Seon Woo Bae in New Zealand earlier this year

Last year’s Breakthroughs

Two players broke through on tour last year after having been touted as potential stars in previous seasons only to underperform.

Jung Min Lee won a tournament back in her rookie year of 2010, and, with her long driving, seemed like a potential superstar in the making.  But after that, she struggled mightily.  In 2011, she only finished 66th on the money list with just a single top ten.  In 2012, she bounced back at last, capturing her second win at the Seokyung Ladies Open after having several other top fives.  She finished 6th on the money list.

Jung Min Lee

Ha Na Jang received even more hype than Lee when she turned pro back in 2010.  She had already contended in two KLPGA Majors in 2009 as a teenage amateur, coming within a shot of winning the second of these.  She played a mini tour in Korea after turning pro, then joined the KLPGA in 2011.  She never really challenged the Rookie of the Year, Yeon Ju Jung, that season, and finished 32nd on the money list.

But in 2012 she at last arrived as a full-fledged star on tour.  She started the year missing five of her first six cuts, and did not make her first top ten until September.  But after that, she notched two top fives, then won the year’s final Major for her first tour victory.  She was 10th on the 2012 money list.  Jang is a proven winner at the amateur level, and like Lee, she hits the ball a long way.

Ha Na Jang won last year’s KB Star Championship

Some other names to watch:

Hye Youn Kim

Kim has won at least once in each of the past few seasons, and looks ready for another top ten caliber season on tour.  Could this be the year she breaks out and gets to the next level?

Hye Youn Kim last December

Ran Hong

Hong is perpetually a top ten player without ever becoming one of the very best.  Her 2012 season was typical: no wins, but 9 top tens, including a third, two fourths and a fifth.  She certainly has the capability to take it to the next level at pretty much any time.

Ran Hong

Yoon Kyeong Heo

Heo had a great season on the KLPGA tour in 2012, even though she was not able to win.  She did manage four runner-up finishes, ending up second behind both So Yeon Ryu and Se Ri Pak when the two LPGA stars visited the tour to play different events.  She also had a second place finish at the year’s final Major.  All those great results allowed her to finish second on the money list behind only Ha Neul Kim.  Will she finally get her first career win in 2013?

Yoon Kyeong Heo and a young fan last Christmas

Ji Hee Kim

2012 KLPGA Rookie of the Year Ji Hee Kim

The 2012 KLPGA Rookie of the Year did not have a really great year, but she has a lot of potential to break out in 2013.

Get ready for the 2013 KLPGA season to start at this week’s LotteMart Ladies Open!

Posted by: happyfan08 | March 2, 2013

Young and Younger

As the 2013 golf season has started to gain steam, the big story of the year so far has been the amazing achievements of Asian teenagers in virtually every significant tournament played so far.  The year started with 15-year-old Korean New Zealander Lydia Ko trying to defend her title at the Australian Women’s Amateur; she lost to 16-year-old Korean Australian Minjee Lee, who won that event for the first time in her career.  Just a week later, Ko and Lee met again at the New South Wales Open, where Ko was again defending her title.  In 2012, she had become the youngest girl to ever win a professional event when she triumphed there.  In 2013, Ko finished second and Lee third.

Minjee Lee with her 2013 Australian Women’s Amateur trophy

The fireworks were far from done.  The next week was the Australian Ladies Masters, and though Karrie Webb won for the 8th time, another 16-year-old Korean Australian amateur, Su Hyun Oh, finished second.  The following week came the New Zealand Open, and Ko bagged her third professional title in front of her home fans, in the process becoming the first New Zealander to win that event.  18-year-old newly minted pro Seon Woo Bae shot a 64 in round 2 and wound up fourth, with Oh managing a top ten as well.

Lydia Ko is overcome with emotion after winning her country’s national open title

And it wasn’t just ethnic Koreans making their marks at these events.  The Thai Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya, managed to contend at several of these events as well, topped by a tie for second at the Masters for Ariya.

So by the time the LPGA season started at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open on February 13th, a narrative was developing: how well would the very young girls in the field do, and would they be able to beat the LPGA superstars also playing?  Both this event and the tour’s second event the following week, the Honda LPGA Thailand, would wind up featuring a battle between one of those young guns and an established Korean LPGA superstar for the big prize, and both would go down to the final few holes before a winner was determined.

The Australian Women’s Open featured the 15-year-old superstar Ko fresh off her New Zealand Open win.  Looking to make it two in a row, the white-hot Ko did not take very long to make her presence felt in Canberra.  In fact, on the first day, paired with world’s #1 golfer Yani Tseng and popular American star Michelle Wie, Ko produced one of the best rounds of golf anyone had seen in a very long time.  Despite making three bogies, she still managed a 10 under par 63, a round which included 11 birdies and an eagle, to soar into the lead.  Even Tseng, who shot a comparatively tame 68, was amazed, watching the youngster make one brilliant shot after another.  Ko’s unbelievable round was a shot heard round the world, and if she had already been attracting the most attention at the tournament even before this, now she was the uncontested top draw.

Lydia in the second round of the Australian Women’s Open

While Ko was getting the attention, former world #1 Jiyai Shin quietly shot her own 8 under par 65 to take third place.  Both Ko and Shin played fantastically on day two, and ended the day tied at 14 under par, just a shot out of the lead held by Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe.  But in round three, Uribe faded, while the two Korean-born players rode their accuracy to 3 under par 70s and a tie atop the leaderboard at 17 under.  At last, they would play in the same group together, with the tournament held in the balance.  With the next nearest competitor six shots back, it seemed like a two-horse race.

The hype for the contest was such that the Golf Channel in the US made an unprecedented move: they showed the entire final round between the two LIVE in prime time Saturday night.  Crowds showed up by the droves, most of them rooting Ko on to make history.  Shin, meanwhile, wanted to make sure it was she who raised her third trophy in her past seven LPGA starts.  She had last been paired with Ko in the final round Sunday at the Canadian Women’s Open.  Ko would go on to win that event (Shin finished third), becoming the youngest girl to ever win on that tour.  Shin was doubtless looking for a little payback.

Ko had a serious case of the jitters by the time she got to the first tee.  She knocked her drive into the woods, and was not able to get out with her second shot.  By the time the hole was done, she was walking off with a crushing double bogey.  Shin, meanwhile, hit a laser approach shot to a foot for a birdie.  After just one hole, the veteran had a three shot lead.

In the fourth round of the Aussie Open, Lydia got out to a poor start

Things got worse for Ko on the second hole when she three putted to increase her deficit to four.  But after that, she regrouped, making birdies on holes 4 and 5 while Shin bogied 5.  By the time they reached the sixth hole, Ko had climbed back to within a shot.  Ko bogied the 10th hole to increase her deficit to two, but a two shot swing in Ko’s favor on 12 resulted in a tie for the lead for the first time since the start of the round.  With six holes to play, it was still anyone’s game.

The momentum was in the teenager’s direction, but Shin was still rock steady and not going to give up without a fight.  She hit the fairway on 14 while Ko landed in a bunker.  But Shin’s second shot was terrible, and wound up behind an advertising sign near the green; she was short sided as well.  Amazingly, they did not remove the sign, and Shin would have to stand right next to it in order to hit her third shot.  Even more incredibly, her graceful pitch from the nearly impossible lie turned out to be the best shot of the week: a high, lazy arcing shot that landed gently on the green and rolled right into the cup for a birdie.  The stunned Ko missed her par save moments later, and Shin once again had a two shot advantage over the determined teen.

Jiyai Shin was all smiles as she finished up her win in Australia, the first time a Korean had ever won this tournament

Shin made birdie on the next hole, the par 5 15th, and wound up with a two shot win over Yani Tseng, who rallied to finish second ahead of Ko.  Ko wound up third after shooting a final round 76.  In all, it was another fabulous performance by the teenage wunderkind, although it also showed that she still isn’t the unbeatable top player she might one day become.  Thai teen Moriya Jutanugarn finished fourth.

The next week, the tour shifted to Thailand for the LPGA’s yearly visit to that country.  Ko was once again in the field and had a good finish, tied for 14th, although she never really contended for the title.  But the teenage mantle was taken up by the Thai Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya.  Those two had been among Ko’s biggest amateur rivals before they turned pro at the end of last year.  Moriya attended LPGA Q-school, where she earned membership by finishing first (in a tie with Korean Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham).  But Ariya, a year younger, was denied her request to be given a special exemption to the tour’s minimum age limit.  Undaunted, she attended European tour Q-School, which she ended up winning.  So, two sisters, two top finishes at two different Q-Schools.  What a way to start their pro careers!

Ariya was given a sponsor’s exemption to play in her home country’s event, and she made the most of it.  The first round leader was American Stacy Lewis, who shot a record-breaking 63.  Lewis continued to lead after day 2, with Jutanugarn in second place three shots back.  Following a run of birdies on the back nine on Saturday, Ariya overtook Lewis and claimed her own three shot lead.  She was in a position to make a major statement to the LPGA powers-that-be who had deemed her unready for the league just a few months earlier.

Ariya Jutanugarn during round 3 of the Honda LPGA Thailand

As for the Koreans, the player who looked most likely to end Ariya’s fairy tale run was the Legend herself, Se Ri Pak.  Pak, making her season premiere, gutted out three great rounds to forge a second place position at 8 under, giving her a spot in the final group Sunday with Ariya.  Would the wily veteran be able to dash the hopes of the hard-hitting, go-for-broke teen?

Se R Pak in Thailand

Alas, Se Ri was not feeling 100%, having caught a cold, and never played well on Sunday from the opening tee shot.  Jutanugarn, meanwhile, hung tight to her lead.  With Pak effectively neutralized, it fell to a group of other Korean stars to challenge.   Jiyai Shin, fresh off her win, never got it going and finished tied for 14th.  IK Kim got started a bit too late and notched a top ten.  Na Yeon Choi and So Yeon Ryu, playing in the same group together, both had good days, but still finished several shots behind the leaders: Ryu ended up tied for third, Choi solo 7th.

The one Korean young gun who did make a charge was 24-year-old Inbee Park.  Park, also making her first appearance of 2013, shot a 32 on the front nine to move to 11 under, which put her just a shot behind Ariya.  After birdies on 10 and 11, Park found herself in the lead, with Ariya’s nerves seemingly sending her in the wrong direction in a hurry.

Inbee Park in round 4 of the Thailand event

But just when it looked like she was on the ropes, Ariya made a shot for the ages.  On the 12th hole, a par 3, she nailed a hole-in-one to jump one shot ahead of Park.  Riding her momentum from that, she surged to a three shot lead, dropped a shot soon after, but still had a two shot cushion with one hole left.  Meanwhile, Park could not buy a break.  She lipped out a birdie putt on 17, and after getting next to the green in two shots on the par 5 18th, she botched her approach pitch, hit a precise masterpiece of a chip downhill to a foot and saved par.  She was in the house at 12 under, still two behind her teen rival.  Ariya stood on the 18th tee with her wildly cheering country people eagerly awaiting the first ever win by a Thai woman on the LPGA tour.  That it would happen in Thailand made it all the more special.

Then everything went south.  She hit a perfect drive, but weirdly decided to go for the green in two instead of laying up (keep in mind she only needed a bogey to win).  She hit her approach very thin into a fairway bunker, where it plugged into an unplayable lie.  She then dropped in the bunker, and hit a crummy fourth shot over the green into the same treacherous area Park had chipped from moments earlier.  She putted from there, but botched that, leaving it short of the green.  She hit her 6th shot three feet past the hole, and now needed to make that putt to force a playoff.  But she lipped it out, making a triple bogey 8 on the hole.  Amazingly, she had gone from an almost certain win to a one shot loss in the space of a single hole, showing exactly the kind of youthful mistakes she had largely avoided the rest of the week.

Inbee could not believe her luck.  She won her fourth LPGA tournament while sitting in the comfort of the clubhouse, the first time she had ever been given a gift like that.  But she had earned it, too, for she was the only player who put any kind of pressure on Jutanugarn on the back nine.  For the sobbing teenage star, it was another hard lesson learned: these pro women are good, and course management and emotional control is as important an element of the game as driving and putting.

Inbee captured her fourth career LPGA win in Thailand

Interestingly, Park’s win was her second straight victory that happened after an opponent hit an unplayable ball into a bunker late in the tournament.  At the 2012 Sime Darby Malaysia, Na Yeon Choi had done the same thing on the 17th hole on Sunday, effectively ending her challenge of Park.

So two weeks on the LPGA, two epic battles between young Korean LPGA stars and even younger teenage stars of tomorrow.  In both cases the elder players prevailed, but you can be sure we have not heard the last of these precocious youngsters!

Posted by: happyfan08 | January 18, 2013

2012 SeoulSisters Awards Main Page

It’s time once again for the annual SeoulSisters awards, where I pick my 2012 winners for a whole bunch of awards!  Here’s a handy guide to which awards are available on what pages.

Page 1:

Best Start to the season
Biggest Disappearing Act
Best Korean Confrontation
Best Korean Finish

Page 2:

Best Breakthrough
Cinderella of the Year (the year’s most unlikely winner)
Great Performance that came up short

Page 3:

Clutch Performance of the Year
Biggest Disappointment
Most Dominating Performance

Page 4:

Shot of the Year
Round of the Year
Most Controversial Moment
Tournament of the Year

Page 5:

Most Fashionable
Most Touching Moment
Best Teen
Best Hot Streak

Page 6:

Rookie of the Year
Rookie to Watch in 2013
Most Improved Player

Page 7:

Player of the Year

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