Rookie golfers, who are born after 2000, are stealing the spotlight in Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Tour this season. Three rookies including Park Hyun-kyung (20), Lim Hee-jeong (20), and Ryu Hae-ran (19) are among the top five money leaders as of Aug. 5.
Park Hyun-kyung, who failed to win a KLPGA tournament last year, has claimed two wins this season at the KLPGA Championship and the IS Dongseo Busan Open and is currently at the top of the money list with 450 million won of prize money. Lim Hee-jeong is showing a steady performance this season, finishing inside the cut line in all of nine tournaments and top 10 in five. Ryu Hae-ran defended her Jeju Samdasoo Masters title last week, picking up a wire-to-wire victory. Ryu is considered the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award this season.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Award winner Cho Ah-yeon, 20, is having a tough season. She failed to survive the cut in four out of eight tournaments, sitting at 26th on the money list with 82 million won. Cho is likely going through a transition period after correcting her backswing. She finished sixth at the Jeju Samdasoo Masters, her season’s best, making a rebound from her struggles. The competition between KLPGA rookies is likely to become fiercer once Cho Ah-yeon regains her form.
Many KLPGA rookies who were born after 2000 started playing golf, watching the likes of Park In-bee, Choi Na-yeon, Lee Bo-mi, and Shin Ji-ae, the “Seri Kids” who were born in 1988. “More young golfers started to train overseas and take lessons thanks to the Seri Kids, who have won reputation not only in Korea but also in the U.S. and Japan. This helped young golfers born after 2000 receive training in a more systematic manner,” said a golf expert.
Their skills improved rapidly as they competed fiercely from an early age to become a member of the national team. “They have experienced big competitions as members of the national team. Their performance appears to have improved greatly as they have become mentally stable entering their sophomore years,” said an official from the Korea Golf Association.