Dream comes true as resilient golfer earns LPGA card on third try

December 14, 2016

SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) — The third time proved to be a charm for South Korean golfer Lee Jeong-eun who recently earned her LPGA Tour card on her third try.

The 28-year-old did it the hard way, making it through the grueling qualifying tournament, better known as the Q-School.

Lee said even through her two earlier misses, she’d never lost sight of her dream.

“I’ve been dreaming of playing on the LPGA Tour ever since I picked up my club,” Lee told Yonhap News Agency. “I’ve never once given up on that. It’s been a whirlwind since I qualified (on Dec. 4 in Florida), but I’ve been on a cloud.”

Lee finished alone in fifth in the Final Stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida. At the Q-School, players that finish in the top 20, with no ties, earn a full LPGA Tour membership for the following season.

Lee made her professional debut with the Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Tour in 2006, and has had five career victories with eight runner-up finishes.

She said she waited until 2014 to take her first crack at the LPGA Tour because she first wanted to establish herself on the home tour.

“I didn’t think it was too late to try to move to the LPGA Tour, though a lot of people have told me so,” Lee said. “After playing for 10 years in Korea, I’ve grown quite comfortable with everything. I wanted fresh challenges.”

In this file photo provided by the Korea LPGA Tour, Lee Jeong-eun hits a shot during the second round of the E1 Charity Open at South Springs Country Club in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on June 1, 2013.

In this file photo provided by the Korea LPGA Tour, Lee Jeong-eun hits a shot during the second round of the E1 Charity Open at South Springs Country Club in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on June 1, 2013.

Lee only earned conditional status at her first two trips to the Q-School, and blamed those near-misses on her lack of preparation.

“I should have just stuck to my own swing,” she recalled. “I was in the midst of swing changes on both occasions. This year, I was completely ready for the Q-School, and I was able to put up a good score.”

Born in 1988, Lee is a part of the most successful generation of Korean female golfers today. They’re often referred to as “Se-ri’s Kids,” for they picked up golf after watching Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri dominate the LPGA Tour in the late 1990s.

Among those born in the year, Park In-bee and Shin Ji-yai are former world No. 1s with multiple major titles. Lee Bo-mi, Shin and Kim Ha-neul, all 28, finished first, second and fourth on the Japanese tour’s money list this year.

Lee admitted she felt as though she were lagging behind her contemporaries, but their feats have also served as a source of motivation for her.

She said her primary goal for her rookie LPGA season is to retain her card.

“I expect this to be a challenging season, because I don’t know any of the courses and I have to fly great distances,” Lee said. “I have to get myself acclimated to the surroundings first, and then worry about golf.”

Lee said she’s confident in her ability to adapt. Having played in two LPGA events on conditional status this year, Lee said she knows she has the game to thrive.

In this file photo provided by the KLPGA Tour, Lee Jeong-eun watches her putt during the third round of Kyochon Honey Ladies Open at Gunsan Golf & Country Club in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, on May 7, 2016.

In this file photo provided by the KLPGA Tour, Lee Jeong-eun watches her putt during the third round of Kyochon Honey Ladies Open at Gunsan Golf & Country Club in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, on May 7, 2016.

“I didn’t get the feeling I wasn’t hitting long enough off the tee or I wasn’t good enough to play on the tour,” Lee said. “If I can capitalize on my strengths, I believe I will have my share of chances.”

For the long term, Lee said she’d like to stay on the LPGA Tour for more than 10 years.

“If I can take care of myself, I think it’s possible to play there for longer than a decade,” she said. “I’ve come a long way, and so I’d better stick around for a while.”

 

 

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