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Jeon Ji-won, the rising rookie of LPGA

Posted December. 06, 2019 07:43,   

Updated December. 06, 2019 07:43


In 2018, the state of Tennessee hosted the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Championship. And there, Jeon Ji-won, the 22-year-old female golfer from Korea, was alone as always. Most players were accompanied by their parents and friends for support, participating in one of the most prestigious amateur golf competitions in America. Quite a few were seen with their caddies.

But Jeon Ji-won was seen pushing her cart as tall as herself with her own hands. She decided to forgo caddies to cut costs. This immediately caught the attention of Lim Man-seong, the vice president of IMG Worldwide, who handled the management of PGA golfer Choi Kyung-ju in America.

Lim was increasingly fascinated by her performance as she passed the rounds one after another. Eventually, Jeon made it to the final round, but she stopped short at second place with Kristen Gillman winning the championship. She shed bitter tears but won a strong sponsor instead: a contract offer from global sports management company IMG. Jeon became the second Korean female golfer who has signed a contract with IMG Global, following Pak Se-ri, the legendary Korean golfer dubbed the “Golf Queen.”

Currently a student at the University of Alabama, Jeon passed the Q-School at once, juggling career and study successfully. She is taking time off to play in the LPGA Tour next year. “Every player must have done their best, but I had to do more. I fought head-on in the hopes that my effort will bear fruit someday.”

The Big Open, which will take place in Victoria, Australia in February next year, will be her debut game of the LPGA Tour. “I’ve told the news to my friends in Australia, which is like my second home, and some of them said they will come to watch my game,” Jeon said with a big smile.

Her goal for next year is Rookie Award, following suit of Korean female golfers who have won the rookie’s award for the fifth consecutive year. “I had my dream of becoming a golfer, watching Pak Se-ri and Lorena Ochoa playing on TV as a kid,” she said. “I would like to play together with my idol Park In-bi and learn from her audacity.”

At around 240 yards, her driver distance is near the average, but she is highly dexterous with her pitching wedge and bunker shots. “I am not afraid of bunker at all,” said the would-be rookie of the LPGA.

Heon-Jae Lee uni@donga.com