Top Korean golfer Park Sung-hyun to join LPGA Tour full-time next year

November 7, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) — After dominating the Korean ladies’ competition for most of the season, homegrown star Park Sung-hyun is taking her talents to the LPGA Tour.

The 23-year-old announced her plans to compete full-time on the LPGA Tour next year at a press conference in Seoul on Monday, ending months of speculation on her future.

Park, world No. 9, competed in seven LPGA Tour events this year as a nonmember, and posted four top-10 finishes, three of them at major championships.

Nonmembers can join the LPGA Tour full-time the following year by winning a tournament. If not, they can still earn eligibility by making enough money to rank inside the top 40 at the season’s end.

In her limited opportunities, Park has made about US$682,000, which would have been good enough to place her in 22nd place on this year’s money list. Park is the first Korean player to join the LPGA Tour this way.

On the Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Tour in 2016, Park has set the single-season earnings record with a little over 1.3 billion won (US$1.1 million), on the strength of seven victories, which also tops the circuit.

South Korean golfer Park Sung-hyun speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2016.

South Korean golfer Park Sung-hyun speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2016.

Park said she will go back to the drawing board and start everything from scratch.

“I will take one small step after another and will try to win the Rookie of the Year honors,” Park said. “I will try to rely on the experience I’ve had playing in the United States this year.”

Park is the longest hitter on the KLPGA Tour, averaging 265.6 yards off the tee and said she would like to maintain her aggressive style of play on the LPGA Tour.

Park said she’s expected to make her season debut in mid-January in the Bahamas.

“I think I’ve improved over the past year or so, and did well in the United States too,” she said. “But I haven’t won an LPGA event yet, and I’d love to get my first win next year. But I still have a lot of room for improvement, especially with my putting and my short game around the green.”

Park joins by far the deepest foreign talent pool on the LPGA Tour. South Koreans have combined for 23 victories the past two years, and are consistent threats at major championships.

In the world rankings, eight South Koreans are positioned among the top 15, led by No. 3 Chun In-gee.

Her Seoul-based agency, Sema Sports, said Park has already purchased a home in Orlando, and hired a physical trainer and an English tutor to get ready for life on the new tour and in the new country.

Park is expected to depart for the States as early as this weekend.