So Yeon Ryu and I.K. Kim have a lot in common. The South Koreans are both in their 20s, share musical interests, U.S. roots on the West Coast and off-course passions to help others. They are also in the midst of very consistent seasons on the LPGA, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively, on the money list with more than $1 million in earnings even though they are searching for their first victories of 2013.
As the LPGA heads toward its Asian swing next week, both players carry a confident attitude home in trying to claim that elusive win. Ryu has seven top-10 finishes, including three in major championships, and is sixth on the LPGA in Greens in Regulation (75 percent). Kim has eight top-10s, including a runner-up finish at the U.S. Women’s Open, and ranks fourth in Driving Accuracy (82 percent).
Since their playing records this year as similar, it is also interesting to note their devotions off the course.
Ryu, 23, grew up playing the violin and purchased a violin for her younger sister with her first professional paycheck. Kim, 25, is an avid guitar player and a fan of Paul McCartney and the Beatles. She played “Blackbird” during a 2012 Golf Channel promotional shoot.
The duo also has established their U.S. base on the West Coast – Ryu in Los Angeles and Kim in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. This location enables them to make occasional visits back to South Korea and also is a bit shorter commute to the October and November LPGA events in China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion and the 2012 Louise Suggs LPGA Rookie of the Year, has spent her time in the United States off the course studying the comparisons between school physical education systems in South Korea and the U.S. It’s a part of her ongoing college studies in Physical Education at Yonsei University in Seoul, one of the top private universities in the country. She also hopes to use her education and golf experience toward a career in Sports Marketing when she finishes her playing career.
“The LPGA sign is, ‘See why the LPGA different.’ I really like that banner,” Ryu said.
Kim’s focus is the Special Olympics. After the latest of her three career LPGA wins, at the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Kim gave half of the $225,000 first-place purse to Ochoa’s foundation and the other half to the Special Olympics. She is currently the Special Olympics’ Global Ambassador of Golf and recently announced ShopRite’s new partnership with the Special Olympics for the 2014 Special Olympics U.S. National Games in New Jersey.
“The passion and the joy they have playing golf and meeting other people is great,” Kim said. “Golf is great for them in so many aspects.”