Korean Inbee-tational

November 27, 2013

2013 LPGA Tour Year in Review

Park Inbee, left, and Ryu So Yeon, posed inside a bunker at British Women's Open. They finished 1-2 among Koreans on the money list this year. (Yonhap)

Park Inbee, left, and Ryu So Yeon, are pictured in a bunker at the British Women’s Open. They finished 1-2 among Koreans on the money list this year. (Yonhap)

By LEE KYUTAE

The Korean contingent on the LPGA Tour enjoyed another successful season in 2013, led by the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Park Inbee.

The Korean contingent is likely to get only stronger with Lydia Ko joining the force next year.

The Korean contingent is likely to get even stronger with Lydia Ko joining the ranks next year.

With the 25-year old Park reigning supreme on the tour, two of her compatriots – Lee Il-hee and Amy Yang - earned their maiden LPGA victories this year, and the 16-year old Lydia Ko, who has been playing as a New Zealander, won the Canadian Women’s Open for the second consecutive year as an amateur.

The 2013 season concluded with the CME Group Titleholders in Florida last weekend with Ko turning pro. A year after winning eight events, Korean sisters combined for 10 victories in 2013 (Not counting Ko’s wins).

Park accounted for more than half of the tally, with six victories, including the first three major championships of the season. She claimed Player of the Year honors and the money title with $2.45 million in winnings. She has remained in the top spot in the world rankings since first reaching the position on April 15.

Park is the first Korean to become Player of the Year and to win back-to-back LPGA money titles.

The 25-year-old cooled off in the second half of the season after capturing the U.S. Women’s Open in the final week of June but she built big enough leads in the money and Player of the Year points race to hold off a late-surge by Suzann Pettersen and accomplish the impressive double.

Pettersen finished in second place on both the money list and in the Player of the Year race, having earned four victories, including one major.

The Koreans started out strong with Shin Ji-yai winning the 2013 season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February, briefly showing a glimpse of regaining her form from a few years ago.

Park won the following week in Thailand in her season debut and added two more wins in April, including the first major of the year – the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

She capped off her remarkable run with three consecutive victories in June, scooping up back-to-back majors at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open.

In between, Lee Il-hee won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in May for her first-ever victory. It was a feel-good win for the 24-year-old, who joined the LPGA Tour in 2010 but had played so poorly that in December 2011, she even tried to return to South Korea and qualify for the Korean LPGA Tour.

Lee actually failed to earn her KLPGA playing privileges, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, now that she has a U.S. win under her belt and made just under $600,000 in 2013.

Two weeks after Park won the U.S. Women’s Open, Park Hee-young captured the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic for her second LPGA win and her first since November 2011. Park Hee-young defeated Angela Stanford in a sudden-death playoff after the two ended regulation scoring tied at 26-under 258, matching the LPGA Tour record for the lowest 72-hole score.

In October, Amy Yang, 24, joined Lee Il-hee as a first-time winner on the tour. Yang edged out fellow South Korean Seo Hee-kyung in a playoff to win the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, the only LPGA Tour event held in South Korea each season.

Yang, whose Korean first name is Hee Young, had three wins on the Ladies European Tour and another on the KLPGA Tour, but needed five years before winning her first on the U.S. tour.

Ryu So Yeon (5th – $1,278,864) and Kim In-kyung (7th – $1,225,389) also topped the one million mark, and Choi Na Yeon (9th – $929,964) and Park Hee Young (10th – $848,676) rounded out the top 10 on the money list.

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