Hail the new wave of 'Seoul sisters'

Hail the new wave of 'Seoul sisters'
South Koreans Kim Hyo Joo (L), already a Major winner at 19, and Kim Sei Young, 22, who won in just her second US Tour start, are part of the exciting and talented 2015 rookie class.

When the likes of Choi Na Yeon, Park In Bee and Shin Ji Yai burst onto the international golf scene at the turn of the decade, they were affectionately called "Se Ri's kids" in honour of the impact South Korean legend Pak Se Ri had on the sport in her country.

The five-time Major winner is still only 37 but the signs are that she may already be a "grandmother", thanks to the latest generation of young and talented golfers hailing from Seoul and the surrounding cities.

Led by world No. 7 Kim Hyo Joo, only 19 but already a Major winner thanks to her 2014 Evian Championship triumph, and Kim Sei Young, who won last month's Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in just her second US Tour start, these youngsters form part of the Tour's 2015 rookie class which has been hailed as one of the deepest and strongest in years.

They are joined by compatriots Q Baek (ranked 12th) and Jang Ha Na (21st), who have combined to win 10 Korea LPGA titles, and it is surely only a matter of time before they too make their mark on the US-based circuit.

Said 22-year-old Sei Young, who shot a one-over 73 yesterday and is joint-47th at the HSBC Women's Champions: "All of us want to be top five in the world, especially with the Olympic Games next year. It's very tough to get into the Korean team but we are all fighting for a chance."

Not only is the hunger evident but these kids are also better prepared and equipped to cope with the demands of the LPGA Tour, noted Amy Yang.

"They have been playing a lot on our domestic tour and all of them have been very successful," said the 25-year-old, whose win at last week's Honda LPGA Thailand was her second LPGA Tour title after eight seasons.

"I think they enter the LPGA ready to win and they're going to do even better than us."

It is not just the Koreans who are expected to make waves this year, with the Tour welcoming some of the region's rising stars, including Australian Minjee Lee, 18, and Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, 19.

Lee was the world's top-ranked female amateur and won last year's Oates Victorian Open while world No. 39 Ariya has one Ladies European Tour victory and finished fourth at the 2013 edition of the HSBC tournament here.

Said Lee, who is tied for 23rd and is the highest-placed rookie at the US$1.4 million (S$1.9 million) event at Sentosa Golf Club: "When you see someone like Hyo Joo win a Major, it definitely gives us the confidence to do well."

Fellow LPGA rookie Jennifer Yan, who is a Singapore permanent resident, is also optimistic about her future.

Said the 18-year-old Chinese: "It's a really strong class but I'm just trying to work hard and do my best out there and hopefully keep my card."

 


This article was first published on Mar 7, 2015.
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