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LPGA rookie signs endorsement deal with major bank
SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) — South Korean LPGA Tour rookie Park Sung-hyun on Thursday signed an endorsement deal with one of the country’s largest banks.
KEB Hana Bank announced a two-year deal with Park at its headquarters in Seoul. Monetary terms were not disclosed, but the bank said it has “pledged support that befits Park’s potential.” She will wear the lender’s logo on the front of her cap.
Park will make her LPGA debut at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore starting March 2.
The 23-year-old dominated the Korean LPGA Tour in 2016 and made enough money in her limited LPGA appearances to qualify for full-time privileges for 2017. She’s already No. 10 in the world without an LPGA victory.
Park set the single-season earnings record on the KLPGA Tour last year with a little over 1.3 billion won (US$1.1 million), on the strength of the tour-best seven victories.
In seven LPGA starts as a nonmember, Park posted four top-10 finishes, three of them at major championships, and made about $682,000, which would have been good enough to place her 22nd on the 2016 money list.
Nonmembers can join the LPGA Tour full-time the following year by winning a tournament, or they can earn eligibility by making enough money to rank inside the top 40 at the season’s end. Park is the first South Korean to make it to the LPGA Tour by taking the latter route.
“With this deal, I think I’ve finished my preparations for the season,” Park said through a statement. “Now it’s time for me to return everyone’s support on the field.”
At the signing ceremony, Park discussed her objective in more specific terms, saying she wants to reach No. 1 in world rankings before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“While watching the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year, I started dreaming of competing at the Olympics myself,” Park said. “The next Olympics is three years away, and I want to get to the top spot before that.”
With her first LPGA event as a full member on the horizon, Park said he will take things slowly.
“Rather than setting a lofty goal at the first tournament, I just want to finish inside the top 15,” she said. “I’d love to get out there and start playing. I have to play tournament golf to find out what I need to work on.”
Park initially hoped to make her tour debut in Thailand next week but couldn’t secure a sponsor’s exemption. Though her first appearance of the season has been pushed back, Park said it was a blessing in disguise because it gave her more time to fine-tune her game.
Park said she will try to emulate world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who is four years younger than the Korean.
“I think I have so much to learn from her,” Park said. “Even though she’s still young, she is just a relentless worker.”