S. Korea reaches LPGA milestone more than 3 decades after breakthrough

October 25, 2021

Three decades after celebrating a breakthrough victory, South Korea enjoyed the 200th LPGA title by one of its own Sunday.

That the milestone win came on a South Korean course made the feat even sweeter.

Ko Jin-young had the honor by capturing the BMW Ladies Championship in Busan, about 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. Ko defeated fellow South Korean Lim Hee-jeong with a birdie on the first playoff hole at LPGA International Busan.

Ko has been responsible for the past four wins on the South Korean LPGA title list.

“Through No. 199, I knew I had contributed about 5 percent of the wins, and I felt honored,” said Ko, now an 11-time winner. “And it’s an even bigger honor to grab the 200th win at home. I feel very fortunate to have pulled this off.”

The late Ku Ok-hee became the first South Korean to win on the LPGA Tour in March 1988, at the Standard Register Turquoise Classic.

Ko Woo-soon won the Toray Japan Queens Cup in 1994 and 1995, when the Japanese tour event was co-sanctioned by the U.S. tour.

But it wasn’t until 1998 that the country saw another LPGA winner on American soil. Pak Se-ri burst onto the scene that season, winning four titles, including two majors, as a rookie.

Though Ko had the first win, it was Pak, Kim Mi-hyun and Park Ji-eun that formed the first generation of truly successful LPGA golfers from South Korea. These three combined for 39 victories, with Pak’s 25 still the most by a South Korean player.

They inspired a whole generation of players who came along in the late 2000s. The leader of that pack is Park In-bee, who is second on the South Korean wins list with 21 and who has already passed Pak with seven majors.

Three other South Koreans have reached double figures: Kim Sei-young with 12, and Shin Ji-yai and Ko with 11 apiece.

After Ku’s win in 1988, South Korean players won 12 times in the 1990s and 71 times between 2000 and 2009. They’ve added 116 wins since 2010.

In all, 48 different South Korean players have been in the LPGA winner’s circle.