Korean tour star views LPGA appearance as ‘learning experience’

October 12, 2018

INCHEON, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) — It’s not often that Bae Seon-woo, a six-year veteran on the Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Tour, gets to play at a U.S. LPGA event. And whenever she does, Bae tries to learn as much as she can from the best that women’s golf has to offer.

Bae is one of a dozen KLPGA players in action at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship this week. Those ranked among the top 12 on the Korean tour money list through September earned their spots at Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course, next to Incheon International Airport.

Bae Sun-woo of South Korea tees off at the first hole during the second round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Oct. 12, 2018, in this photo courtesy of the tournament organizers. (Yonhap)

Bae Sun-woo of South Korea tees off at the first hole during the second round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Oct. 12, 2018, in this photo courtesy of the tournament organizers. (Yonhap)

Through two rounds, Bae is the top KLPGA member at four-under, good for a tie for eighth place.

Bae went on a tear at the start of the second round, with five birdies over her first six holes. At six-under through six holes, Bae was briefly tied for the lead.

She came down to earth with bogeys at the seventh, ninth and 10th. She salvaged her round with a birdie at the 12th, and strung together six consecutive pars for a 69.

“I should’ve saved that birdie streak for the final day,” Bae quipped after her round. “I made mistakes where I shouldn’t have made them. But I still had a lot of birdies, and so that was pretty gratifying. I didn’t putt so well yesterday, but I think I’ve become accustomed to greens here. I am looking forward to the weekend.”

This is Bae’s second appearance at this tournament. In 2016, she tied for seventh place.

In 2016, Bae was in the midst of a two-win season. Bae came into this week also with two KLPGA victories, including a KLPGA major, Hite-Jinro Championship, last weekend.

Bae waved off the suggestion that she is the face of the KLPGA Tour here, saying she was only here to pick the brains of LPGA veterans.

“If I keep playing in Korean tour events, I may get stuck in just one style of golf,” Bae said. “I came here trying to learn from these players and get a fresh perspective on golf.”

Bae’s first-round pairing included Sarah Jane Smith of Australia. In the second round, Bae played with two European veterans of the tour, Azahara Munoz of Spain and Sandra Gal of Germany.

Specifically, Bae said she admired the LPGA players’ focus and creativity around the green.

“In situations where they had to lay up (out of rough), they used a lot of imagination,” she said. “It seemed to me like they were concentrating a lot more on their short game than anything else. I felt like I’d been wasting my energy in places where I shouldn’t have. It really opened my eyes.”

With those lessons in the books, Bae said she was confident she could go even lower over the next two rounds.

“I am going to go for the pins tomorrow,” she said. “There are so many talented players out here, and I think it’ll come down to who stays focused through the end. The back nine here is really difficult and you have to play some smart golf.”

Bae was discussing her round in businesslike manner but stopped in mid-sentence and let out a small yell of surprise when she spotted a hat bearing the logo of the Toronto Maple Leafs, her favorite National Hockey League (NHL) team, in the media throng. Bae said she has a few friends who play hockey and she has been a fan of the game since college.

Bae left the scrum beaming, after learning that the Leafs had defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 for their third straight win earlier Friday, and her favorite player, Auston Matthews, scored twice to reach an NHL-best nine goals after five games.

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