Koreans poised to win upcoming LPGA event at Kingsmill

May 12, 2015
From top left going clockwise, Kim Hyo-joo, Park Inbee, Amy Yang and Ryu So-yeon. South Korea has four female golfers who are in the top-15 qualifying rankings for the 2018 Olympics.  (AP Photo)

From top left going clockwise, Kim Hyo-joo, Park Inbee, Amy Yang and Ryu So-yeon. South Korea has four female golfers who are in the top-15 qualifying rankings for the 2018 Olympics. (AP Photo)

By Nam Hyun-woo

Korean female golfers are preparing to resume their dominance on the LPGA Tour, with World No. 2 Park In-bee and rookie sensation Kim Sei-young eyeing their third trophy of this season at the Kingsmill Championship set to start on May 14 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The championship, which will be played at the 6,379-yard, par-71 River Course at the Kingsmill Resort, marks the 12th event of the 2015 LPGA tour season and has so far seen three Korean winners — Shin Ji-yai in 2012, Pak Se-ri in 2004 and Grace Park in 2003.

Along with Lydia Ko, world No. 1 and a Korean-born Kiwi, Park and Kim have had six wins in 11 events this season — with each winning twice — raising expectations that one of the three will likely win the Kingsmill Championship, but not comfortably given none of the previous competitions this season has been decided by more than three strokes.

The three are also dominating various LPGA tables. Ko leads the money list with $915,051, followed by Park ($810,261) and Kim ($747,252). In the race for Player of the Year, Ko also leads with the most points, 102, followed by Park (88) and Kim (87).

Among them, Park has the most momentum. She took the North Texas Shootout trophy earlier this month, shooting six under to prevail by three shots. Park, who missed last year’s Kingsmill Championship, said she prioritizes completing career grand slams to rising to the No. 1 rank or grabbing the Player of the Year title, but this weekend comes at a crucial point for her as it is a chance to gain an advantage over her rivals.

Park has won each of the U.S. Women’s Open, the LPGA Championship and the ANA Inspiration (formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship) at least once. If she can win either the Women’s British Open or the Evian Championship, Park will be recognized with a career grand slam. The Evian Championship was elevated to major status in 2013.

For Kim Sei-young, the event is also important. The Lotte Championship winner is vying for Rookie of the Year with Kim Hyo-joo, another Korean who made a soft landing to the LPGA this season. Kim Sei-young earned 684 points to lead Kim Hyo-joo by 141 points, but Kim Hyo-joo won the JTBC Founders Cup and has not finished outside the top 25. The two Kims will make their Kingsmill debut.

Along with Ko, Cristie Kerr, 37, is a favorite. She has had extraordinary performances at the Kingsmill Resort, winning the 2005, 2009 and 2013 events. She also snapped Korean-born golfers’ winning streak at six, by winning the KIA Classic.

Last year, Lizette Salas earned her first career victory at the event. Though she pledges to defend her title, odds are not for her, given that no player has successfully defended her title at this tournament.

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