Misun Cho: South Korean Finishes No. 3 On Duramed FUTURES Tour
Article courtesy of Duramed FUTURES Tour
Second-year Duramed FUTURES Tour member MISUN CHO of Cheongju, South Korea, was one of the Tour's most steady performers this season, finishing the year ranked third with earnings of $62,327.
The former Pepperdine University All-American with the Australian accent wasted no time climbing the 2009 money list. She won the Tour's second tournament back in April in Daytona Beach, Fla., and then added another win in July in Concord, N.H.
Cho, 21, recorded seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts, made every cut, averaged 71.29 strokes per round and earned LPGA Tour membership for the first time. She will be a rookie on the 2010 LPGA Tour.
The recent LPGA card winner discussed her two seasons on the LPGA's developmental tour with duramedfuturestour.com senior writer Lisa D. Mickey. Here's what she had to say about her journey to the LPGA:
DFT: Were you like so many other South Korean girls who saw the LPGA's Se Ri Pak on TV and took up golf?
CHO: I did see her on TV in 1998, but I got started just before she got really famous. I was always athletic and I was interested in tae kwon do, gymnastics and dancing. I was very flexible - like a rubber band. My dad introduced me to golf when I was 10 years old. It was a little boring because in Korea, there's just a driving range and you stand there and hit balls.
DFT: Did you grow up hitting balls on one of those five-story driving ranges found in the big cities?
CHO: Our range was two stories. I grew up on the 11th floor of an apartment building. It's a totally different environment in a small country with a lot of people. Everywhere you go, it's a city. Korea is pretty much a country of big cities, little mountains and surrounding rice paddies.
DFT: So was this game love at first swipe?
CHO: I never thought this was going to be my life, but when I was around 13 or 14, I changed to another driving range and somebody told me I had talent. He told me I should consider it seriously, so I started playing tournaments in Korea. I won a big tournament in Korea and that winter, I went to Australia. You can't play golf in the winter in Korea.
DFT: When did you go to Australia?
CHO: The winter of my sixth-grade year of school. I came back to Korea and started the seventh grade, but two weeks later, I moved to Australia by myself. I stayed with a host family for three years and then my mom came. I lived there for seven years. Now that I think about it, I guess I was a brave little kid to go to another country and start over. It was tough. I didn't know how to speak English at first, but I went to a language school and then to a proper high school. Because I was the first international Korean, that helped me because there was nobody else to talk to in my language and I had to pick up English fast.
DFT: Did you play golf in school?
CHO: They didn't have high school teams, but I played for Australia. I won the Australian Junior Championship twice and the Australian Stroke-Play Championship. And then I decided to go to college. I thought it would be a very good step to go to America and to go there by playing college golf. A lot of Korean girls turn pro early, but I knew I would regret it later in life if I didn't try to go to college.
DFT: Did you enjoy college golf?
CHO: I enjoyed it a lot, but college also was tough. For me to write a paper takes a lot longer than most people [because of the language]. It would take me six hours to write a paper. After a while, it caught up to me. I was very competitive about golf and when I didn't play well, I was really stressed out. I couldn't work on my game when I had to catch up with academic stuff. Toward the end of my first year, I was pretty certain that I wanted to move on.
DFT: So then you qualified for the Duramed FUTURES Tour and played your first season in 2008. How did that go?
CHO: That's when I learned that my first year was all about learning. I didn't break the top 10 my rookie year and people back home wondered, "What's wrong with her?" Even my parents wondered.
DFT: Your 2009 season was completely different than your rookie year in 2008. What did you do to improve so dramatically?
CHO: Toward the end of 2008, I really felt that I needed to step up my game. I didn't have a coach in America, so I started working with Phil Ritson in Orlando. I knew he had taught Aussie SARAH-JANE (KENYON) SMITH and I really liked Sarah-Jane's golf swing. We started working hard. I was working on my game, my fitness and strength. By the time I played our second tournament this year, everything just kind of fell into place.
DFT: Did you have any idea you would win that second tournament of the season?
CHO: Well, last year, I didn't have the belief that I could win. This year, I slipped back into that confidence. In the final round of the second tournament, I felt really relaxed. I didn't know how many strokes ahead I was until the 15th hole, and then it was like, "Oh my God, I'm four strokes ahead!" I started believing that yeah, I belong here. It was my goal to win one of our two events in Florida.
DFT: And then you won again in Concord, N.H. Did you see that one coming?
CHO: My teacher Phil came up for that tournament and he said, "You really have to win this one." I'd had three top-five finishes right before I won in New Hampshire. I knew if I kept knocking on the door, sooner or later, it had to open. I'm not the same player I was last year. Now, when I get a little anxious, I know what to do with myself. I know where I'm going and what I want to do. Last year, I was a little lost.
DFT: So, what exactly did you change?
CHO: I started managing myself and the way I practiced better. Last year, I practiced a lot and I wore myself out before the tournament even started. Now, I know when I'm tired, it won't hurt to take the day off. As long as you know where you're going on the golf course, that's all that matters. I know what I need to work on.
DFT: This year, you played in the U.S. Women's Open Championship. How was that experience?
CHO: It was great and now I'm not as nervous about going to the LPGA next year. I'm looking forward to it. I played a practice round with BIRDIE KIM. She was from my hometown and she was our national champion. I remember her as a little girl. She also played on the Duramed FUTURES Tour and we talked about it. She told me to just hang in there. But other than her, I didn't really know the Korean players, so it was kind of awkward. I'm Korean, but I played most of my amateur golf in Australia. They don't know me and I don't know them. In golf, everyone ends up at the same place in the end, so eventually, you meet or see each other again.
DFT: What did you learn on the Duramed FUTURES Tour?
CHO: That every shot matters in professional golf. This tour makes you become a fighter. You try to get top-five and top-10 finishes every week. If you're just one shot out of the top 10, it can be the difference of several hundred dollars. Sometimes, it's easy to get caught up in watching the money list rather than telling yourself to go out there and play your game.
DFT: Are you ready for the 2010 LPGA Tour?
CHO: Yes, and I'm glad I have gained 15 yards since last year. I'm also glad that we finished our season in early September. That gives me more time to prepare, to continue my strengthening work, and to be the best that I can be when the new year begins.