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LPGA Murmuring Over Korean Win Streak

Posted July. 19, 2006 03:01,   


Korean golf fans are increasingly having exhausted Monday mornings this year. Korean players in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour are giving them plenty of reason to stay up through the night.

When Kim Mi-hyun (KTF) won the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic after extra holes on Monday, she topped off the Korean wave that is sweeping the LPGA tour this year.

With nine wins in 18 contests, female Korean golfers already tied the most wins in one season record set in 2002. Of the eight female Korean champions, five including Kim Ju-mi (Hite Brewery), Lee Mi-na (KTF), Han Hee-won (Fila Korea), Pak Se-ri (CJ) won in playoffs, demonstrating their concentration and will.

American and European golfers, who feel intruded on by the Koreans, are looking on with anxiety. Some show open disapproval, while the golf goddess Annika Sorenstam (Sweden) complain that it is getting harder to win because of Korean golfers. The executive office of the LPGA Tour is trying to put a stop to this situation by adopting an English proficiency test, which will discriminate against Korean golfers who have poor command of English.

With Kim Mi-hyun at fourth place, Han Hee-won at sixth, Lee Sun-hwa at eighth (CJ), and Jang Jeong (Industrial Bank of Korea) at tenth, four Korean golfers stand in the top ten earnings ranking as of Tuesday.

Just in the first half of the year, 32 Korean golfers have raked in 7.31 million dollars (6.6 billion won) in prize money. This figure does not include prize money won by Korean-American players like Michelle Wie and Christina Kim.

The 9.56 million dollars is the record total LPGA prize money won by former KLPGA (Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association) golfers. At this rate, the Korean ladies will break the 10 million dollar mark in the remaining 13 contests.

The sheer number of female Korean golfers participating in the LPGA is what made this possible. With seniors and juniors cheering each other on, the golfers have fared even better this year. First-generation golfers like Pak Se-ri and Kim Mi-hyun came back alive after two or three years of disappointing results. The middle-generation like Jang Jeong and Han Hee-won showed strong performances. New comers like Lee Sun-hwa, Lim Sung-ah (Hansamin, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation), and Kim Ju-mi recorded surprising results.

The LPGA Tour, now past the halfway mark of the year, will take a one-week break before kicking off the second-half of the year with the Evian Masters.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com