My name is So-yeon Ryu. The season is almost over but I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little about myself and share with you my reflections about my first year on the LPGA tour.
First off, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, "how do you pronounce your last name?" The first two letters in my last name make the pronunciation difficult. It is best to think of my name as "Yoo" or "You". I hope this makes it easier!
I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. I have a younger sister who is now a sophomore at Oberlin College in Ohio. When I was eight years old, I started a playing golf but I really wanted to be a violinist. At that time, I didn't really think that I was a naturally talented athlete. But, the more I played golf, the more I began to love it and that's why I changed my dream.
Before joining the LPGA, I played for four years on the Korean LPGA. As a member of the KLPGA tour, I was able (because of my results) to play a few select tournaments each year on the LPGA. This may explain why some people question whether or not I am really a rookie. When I tee off on the first tee, I am always introduced as "2012 LPGA rookie So-yeon Ryu". Upon hearing that many people ask me, "Are you really a rookie? But you won the US Women's Open last year!" I explain that I was invited to that tournament and won it as a member of the KLPGA. That win forever changed my life and it is the reason I am sitting here writing this as a full member of the LPGA.
One of the most beneficial things for me this year on tour has been my "rookie hours". They have been so exciting. At the start of the year I did not have many friends, but during our rookie seminars I got close to the other rookie players. At these seminars I learned about really cool things. For example, how sponsors prepare for the tournaments and how we can make ourselves an attractive brand. I am really interested in sports marketing so for me, rookie hours are a very good learning opportunity. Rookie hours not only consist of seminars, but also include: shadowing other players' Pro-Am groups, spending time at the Golf Channel production truck, and observing tournaments with the LPGA rule officials. By far, my favorite experience was at the Golf Channel. The truck has a lot of monitors and equipment, but the producers controlled it so well. It was pretty impressive.
These days, we play tournaments not only in the USA but abroad; the LPGA is a global tour. I made my first debut in Australia. I have already played in Singapore, England, France, Canada, and Malaysia. I will visit Taiwan and Mexico in the near future. I am so excited to see such fabulous places. I think my favorite place to play was Hawaii. The landscape was awesome. My hotel was in front of a beautiful beach, so when I was seated on the patio I forgot that I was there to play in a golf tournament. I fell in love with Hawaii. Ironically, although I love to travel, it is also the hardest thing about playing on the tour. I always carry my heavy golf bag (28 kilograms) and too many suitcases. I hate carrying everything, but I feel very lucky and appreciative to visit many beautiful places to do the thing I love.
The most exciting tournaments are the majors. I have played the first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, several times as a non-LPGA member. The Kraft is played on a really exciting course and the conditions are always perfect. I am happy to have to challenge myself to make a variety of shots on that course--draw, fade, low, high ball. (Plus, I get to eat lots of yummy cookies!)
The second major, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, gave me a lot of headaches because the fairways were so narrow and the rough was deep and thick. I had trouble playing out of the rough. The top players are all great playing out of the rough so I learned many things from the veteran players at this tournament.
The third major, the US Women's Open, was the toughest tournament ever. First of all, I was the defending champion (pressure!), second, Blackwolf Run is an extremely difficult course, and last, this course is very special to Koreans because it is where Se-ri Pak won the US Women's Open. Although I was unable to defend my trophy, I was very happy for Na-yeon Choi.
My experience at the last major, the RICOH Women's British Open, was "WOW". It was my first visit to England and my first experience on a links course. I have never experienced anything like it. I honestly felt like I was playing golf for the first time. The weather and the wind were too strong. As a matter of fact, we couldn't play on Friday because of the wind. Nobody can predict what the golf is going to be like at the British Open and that's part of what makes it attractive and exciting to play. I finished in the top-5 at this major (my best finish this year in a major) and I watched one of my favorite golfers Jiyai Shin's remarkable play. My experience at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club will not be forgotten!
My favorite part about life on the LPGA is I can play with my idols. Before joining the tour I always watched the LPGA players on TV, but, now I get to practice with them and play in the same tournaments. How cool!! Sometimes I have to pinch myself to tell myself this is not a dream. The tour veterans have been very welcoming to me. Sometimes I ask them things that I have wondered about. For example, what's your favorite course? Sometimes I am more of a fan than a golfer.
I have tried to explain really simply about the last eight months, but it is difficult. I want to thank you, the fans, for all of your support. I really appreciate your words of encouragement whether it comes from the gallery, my Facebook page, or on Twitter. I will try my best in the last few tournaments. I want to finish my rookie year strongly!!!