Lee Ye-won, Cho Woo-young, Jang Yu-bin, who heated up the field… It’s even hotter next year

December 29, 2023 | by

In 2023, Korean golfers have performed very well around the world. Lee Ye-won has emerged as a rising star in women’s golf, while “super rookies” Kim Min-byul, Bang Shin-sil and Hwang Yoo-min fiercely competed for the Rookie of the Year award, heating up the field. In addition, “Amateur” Jo Woo-young and Jang Yoo-bin made a sensation and stood as the next-generation aces in Korean men’s golf, and at the Hangzhou Asian Games, they teamed up with Im Sung-jae and Kim Si-woo to win the gold medal in the men’s team event. Shin Ji-ae, a 35-year-old veteran, has garnered three wins in Japan and Australia to rank 15th in the world, while Im Jin-hee, Lee So-mi and Sung Yoo-jin will pass the qualifying series to join the LPGA tour next year.

① Korean Stage Opens in Lee Yewon’s Era

The reign of the KLPGA tour has changed. It is Lee Ye-won who won her first career championship at the Lotte Rent-A-Car Women’s Open, the opening game of Korea, and became the first major queen by winning the Doosan E&C Weave Championship and the Hite Jinro Championship, a major competition. This year was the best year for her, as she topped the list of prize money (1.424,817,530 won), grand prize money (651 points), and average shot (70.71 strokes). Thanks to her stellar performance, Lee became the “Native Golf Empress” by beating out Park Min-ji, who had been ranked No. 1 for 134 weeks in the K-ranked. Lee plans to go to Australia in January next year for off-season training and engage in intense training for about two months.

② The competition for the Rookie of the Year

The once-in-a-lifetime rookie award was heated up by competition between the “super rookie trio” Kim Min-byeol, Bang Shin-sil and Hwang Yu-min.

Kim Min-byul won the rookie award in the chase that continued through the end of the season. The secret is her consistency. Kim Min-byul did not win a title, but she ranked in the top 10 for 12 times, including the runner-up three times, and was ranked at the top in all categories including sixth place in prize money, third place in grand prize money, and 10th place in average times at bat. Unfortunately, she failed to win the prize, but she won two times and was listed in the top 10 nine times, including one time in third place. She became the “long shot queen” with an average of 262.47 yards. Hwang Yoo-min, the “combatant leader,” beat Kim Min-byul and recorded one win in the Daeyu Women’s Open and MBN Women’s Open.

③ Jo Woo-young and Jang Yu-bin from “Professional Ama”

Amateurs have displayed remarkable performance in the Korean PGA tour. Jo and Jang, who won the gold medal in the team event at the Hangzhou Asian Games along with Im Sung-jae and Kim Si-woo, members of the PGA of the U.S., have already won professional competitions and are known as professional amateurs. Jo won the Golf Zone Open in April first, sending signals of “maybe a sensation,” followed by Jang with the trophy in his arms at the Gunsan CC Open. Although they did not receive prize money, Jo and Jang, who secured seeds for the KPGA Korean tour, are determined to continue their momentum as professionals next year.

④ Shin Ji-ae was born in the year of the dragon. “Record maker.”

Born in 1988, Shin was born in the year of the dragon, and most of her friends retired, and she still looked as if she was in her prime. Shin, whose main stage is the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA) tour, won two games in Japan and one in Australia this season, setting a record of 64 wins in her professional career. In particular, Shin, who had elbow surgery last year and had no win in the aftermath, returned home with more sophistication. She is currently ranked 15th in the world in women’s golf. If she maintains her current status, she can participate in the Paris Olympics next year.

⑤ Only 5 LPGA wins… Comfortable with her new impression

Korean female golfers who are active in the LPGA tour have some regrets. Ko Jin-young had two wins, and Kim Hyo-joo, Yoo Hae-ran, and Yang Hee-young each had one win, with four players tying for five. Korean female golfers performed well by winning 15 games in 2019 and seven games each in 2020 and 2021. However, they only had four wins last year and only had five wins this year. Due to sudden slump and injury, their dominance in the world ranking fell to the top five. At one point, six to seven golfers were in the world’s top 10, but now nobody is in the top five. Only two golfers are in the top 10 list, with Ko Jin-young in the sixth and Kim Hyo-joo in the seventh. Fortunately, Yoo Hae-ran was able to comfort her by winning the LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year award for the first time in five years as a Korean golfer 헤라카지노.

⑥ More Challengers… Looking forward to next year

Expectations are growing again for next year. Including Im Jin-hee, who became the winner of the KLPGA tour with three wins this year, Sung Yu-jin, who has three wins, and Lee So-mi, who has five wins, will join the team as “young blood.” In the LPGA Tour Q Series held earlier this month, Lee So-mi ranked second, Sung Yu-jin tied for seventh, and Im Jin-hee tied for 17th, winning the berth next year. With the addition of the three rookies, Korean players are expected to gain dominance in the LPGA tour, which had slowed down since 2019. The “match queen” Hong Jung-min will set up a “three-household” in Korea, the U.S., and Europe. The LPGA Tour ended up as a conditional seed by tying for 45th in the Q Series, but received the full seed in the European Ladies Professional Golf Association (LET) by tying for 20th.

⑦ Increasing Virtual Money Prizes

Attention is focusing on the prize money of Lee Ye-won, the winner of the Wimix Championship 2023, the KLPGA Tour event held as the “King and King” event. This is because Lee was the first to pay virtual currency as prize money. Lee, the winner of the championship, received 250,000 Wimix. At the time of the championship, the Wimix was 2,300 won (2,300 U.S. dollars) per piece, which translates into 600 million won. However, it has maintained the 4,000 won level, with the highest figure reaching 4,197 won on Friday. If the current market price continues until January 1 next year, Lee will receive more than 1 billion won in prize money. The prize money for winning the event has doubled in less than two months. Lee has received 1.42 billion won (1.5 million dollars) in prize money in 29 competitions this year.

⑧ Park In-bee challenges for IOC Athletes’ Commission

Park In-bee, the “Golf Queen,” is set to launch a great challenge next year. The goal is to become an athlete member of the International Olympic Committee, not a field. The IOC announced 32 finalists based on their sport, gender, and region among candidates recommended by the National Olympic Committee. Park In-bee, who seeks to become the “first professional golfer to join the IOC.” Only four athletes will be elected through voting during the Paris Olympics.


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