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Happy Newlyweds

Posted September. 20, 2004 22:04,   


“It was my third time to watch Hee-won play in the overtime. The two games last time were defeats, but this time, I felt that she would win. Whew, I couldn’t watch because my heart was trembling,” says Sohn Hyuk

When we called the couple of Sohn Hyuk (31) and Han Hee-won (26, FILA Korea) on September 20, they were at an airport waiting for their plane to Sacramento, California. They were moving ahead to Auburn to attend yet another tournament, the Longs Drugs Challenge, without having even a moment to celebrate her victory.

This is an example of how tiring the women’s LPGA tours are. However, their voices were as cheery as ever. It seemed that the strong feelings from the victory had not run dry yet.

The “new bride” Han Hee-won (26• FILA Korea) has finally quenched the thirst for victory within the “League of Korean Players,” and became the first “married” woman player who won a LPGA tour in Korean golf history.

Han Hee-won won the Safeway Classic that day with a $1,200,000 prize at the Columbia Edgewater CC (par 72, 6307 yards) in Portland, Oregon after a close competition in overtime.

She entered the final round three shots behind the leading player, but stormed back to 5-under-par 67 and finished with a 9-under-par 207, recording a tie with Laurie Kane of Canada. She decorated her first hole in overtime with a 1.5-meter birdie and held her victory cup tightly afterwards.

This is her third career victory and her first victory in one year and one month since her last at the Wendy’s Championship in August of last year. This season, Korean women players have won three championships so far: Park Ji-eun at the Nabisco Championship in March, Pak Se-ri at the Michelob Ultra Open in May, and Han Hee-won.

The victory in this tournament is a very special one for the couple. Han Hee-won married former pro baseball player Sohn Hyuk in December of last year and has performed poorly since then. She entered 21 tournaments before this one and finished in the top 10 only four times. Her performance looked dismal compared to last year’s record of two championships and three second-place finishes and the winner of the fourth biggest prize money total.

This stirred up ceaseless rumors such as, “She didn’t practice at all not having any winter training after she got married,” and “Her spirit of victory has disappeared.”

She responded to those, saying “It is true that I was short of practice time because of the marriage, but I don’t think I was in a slump of any kind. Players are just human, and one cannot expect to play well all the time. I have thought myself that I had played good games and didn’t care about how people talked about it.”

Sohn Hyuk, who retired from pro baseball last April to support his wife and to study, said, “In fact, it is more difficult to watch next to her, but golf has certain thrills that I haven’t felt with baseball. There is a tension and an excitement to the game. But I cannot follow her like this next year since I’ll have to study sports rehabilitation and baseball.”

“Have you ever thought of carrying her golf bag?” I asked. Sohn answered, chuckling, “Isn’t it too heavy? And I hate waking up early in the morning…”

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com