Record breaker fueled by disappointing Olympics to win LPGA major

September 20, 2016

INCHEON, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) — Fresh off her record-breaking LPGA major victory in France, South Korean golfer Chun In-gee said Tuesday she was fueled by her “disappointing” showing at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics last month.

Chun returned home Tuesday after capturing the Evian Championship at 21-under 263, the lowest score both in relation to par and in aggregate in LPGA history. She’d already tied the previous LPGA mark of 19-under after three rounds, and was never seriously challenged in the final round despite rainy conditions.

It was Chun’s second LPGA victory and both wins have come at major championships. She won the U.S. Women’s Open last year as a non-member.

Chun got off to a strong start in her first full LPGA season, which enabled her to qualify for the Rio Games as one of four South Koreans. She tied two others in 13th place at five-under, with countrywoman Park In-bee taking the gold medal at 16-under.

Looking back, Chun said the Olympic experience was “a huge turning point” for her season.

South Korean golfer Chun In-gee smiles after receiving presents from fans at Incheon International Airport on Sept. 20, 2016.

South Korean golfer Chun In-gee smiles after receiving presents from fans at Incheon International Airport on Sept. 20, 2016.

“My biggest goal this year was to compete at the Olympics, but I wasn’t feeling 100 percent healthy leading up to the event,” Chun told reporters at Incheon International Airport. “I was disappointed and angry with myself. And watching In-bee play such great golf up close inspired me a great deal. I wanted to make up for it at this major (Evian Championship) and gave it everything I had.”

The Olympic field was limited to four players per nation, and with South Korea boasting a deep talent pool in women’s golf, some LPGA major champions fell victim to the number’s game and were left off the team.

Chun, who rose to No. 3 in the world rankings after Evian, understands she will have her work cut out to make the Olympic team in four years’ time. And her mediocre debut this year has left her wanting for more.

“Now that I’ve played in one, I want to go for the gold medal,” she said. “If I have another opportunity to play four years later, I’d like to bite on an Olympic medal.”

Chun said she was aware of her chase for the major championship scoring records, but it didn’t make her final round any more difficult.

“I try to enjoy playing in pressure-packed situations,” she said. “I tend to smile a lot during rounds. I was just trying to have fun out there, and I also appreciated the fact that so many people had come out to cheer for me.”

She had to drain a six-foot par putt at the 18th hole to finish at 21-under, and beat the men’s major championship record by one stroke. She found trouble on the left side off the tee and needed three shots to reach the par-4 green.

“The 18th hole had been the most difficult one for me even during the practice rounds,” she said. “And I think I felt the most pressure standing on the 18th tee. Though I sent the tee shot to left, I never lost faith in myself that I could save par.”

Chun is only the second LPGA player to win her first two LPGA titles at major championships, after Korean legend Pak Se-ri, who captured two majors in 1998 as a rookie sensation.

A steady player who doesn’t have a glaring weakness, Chun, at the tender age of 22, said she doesn’t believe she has realized her potential as a golfer.

“Some people blossom earlier than others, and I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet,” she said. “I think I took a major step forward by playing well last year, and I will keep trying to fully blossom as a golfer.”


One Comment

  1. Bill Gajeski

    September 20, 2016 at 3:57 PM

    For years I followed Pak Se-ri on tour here in the US. Now I follow Chun In Gee. I watched her win the uS Open last year and it was a thrilling for her. She’s had her ups and downs in 2016, but she is now on top winning at Evian. I believe she has the potential to become a better player. Her record setting -21 is proof that she is reaching her goal. I wish her the very best in all her future outings whether here in the US or other countries. She truly represents the very best South Korea has to offer on the world stage. I’ve become one of her many fans now.