So Yeon Ryu’s ‘perfectionist’ mentality guides her to 2012 Rookie of the Year
Whether So Yeon Ryu is studying to ace a college exam or concentrating on sinking a birdie putt, she always gives each thought her greatest effort.
“I am kind of a perfectionist,” Ryu says. “If I set up the goal, I have to get it.”
So it’s no surprise that when she made a resolution to be the 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year at the beginning of the season, she did everything she could to achieve it and did so in extraordinary fashion.
The 22-year-old had a stellar rookie year, gathering 15 top-10 finishes in 22 events including her victory at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in August. She also ranks inside the top-10 in seven categories, which include top-10 finish percentage, birdies, putts per GIR, rounds in the 60’s, scoring average, rounds under par and eagles. Not to mention she also broke into the top-10 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, sitting at No. 9.
“First of all, I’m really happy that I’ll have the Rookie of the Year trophy in my hands,” says Ryu. “When I started the season my goal was to get Rookie of the Year and I’m so happy to have won. This year I played very confident so I’m really happy with my results. And winning the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic was amazing. That was the happiest moment for me.”
Ryu got off to a hot start in the rookie race this season and didn’t give the other 32 rookies the slightest chance of catching her either, ending with 1,368 points in the rookie race and 565 points ahead of Lexi Thompson. She becomes the eighth South Korean golfer on the LPGA Tour to win the award, all of whom Ryu looks up to.
“A lot of Korean golfers have gotten Rookie of the Year so I felt like I had to do it,” Ryu says. “It’s kind of like a Korean tradition or something. So I had a lot of pressure on me. I really wanted to follow the other Korean’s steps.”
One player Ryu was particularly fond of was LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who ignited a certain passion for golf in the women of Korea. In fact, it was just one week after Ryu picked up her first golf club during an elementary school class that Pak made LPGA history when she won the U.S. Women’s Open.
“It was a really tough time in Korea around the time she won,” Ryu recalls. “Se Ri gave a lot of hope and happiness to every Korean. I was really impressed that an athlete can give that happiness to all the people. Korean junior golfers think now they have the same opportunity, that they can do that too. She was a great role model, so now I want to be a great role model for junior golfers.”
Ryu not only competes on the LPGA and Korean LPGA Tours, she is also balancing a full class schedule at the Yonsei University studying physical education, something most athletes in Korea aren’t able to do and another goal she aims to achieve.
“In Korea, it’s really hard to do school and a sport, like you don’t have the time for practice and study,” Ryu says. “But I want to break that trend and I want to finish school while also being a professional golfer. I want to finish strongly. That’s one of my goals about my life.”
Although she admits it’s rather difficult to manage her time with so much on her plate, she says school and golf are a great equalizer.
“When I’m competing all I think about is golf and when I’m studying I only think about school,” Ryu said. “I’m always focused. I think it’s a great opportunity to refresh my mind and my brain.”
Ryu will shift her focus after competing in the CME Group Titleholders to concentrating on graduation and preparing a new target for her 2013 campaign.
“Well, before my 2013 goal was to be a world ranked top-10 player,” Ryu says. “But I already did that this year. So now I have to fix my goals.”
All eyes will be on Ryu next season to see if she can follow up on her successful rookie season, but after proving herself of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open title with an entire year of spectacular golf Ryu says she can handle the pressure.
“I had a great experience this year on the LPGA,” Ryu said. “Maybe it will be a little easier to prepare for next season because I know what I have to do. I’m the Rookie of the Year so I’m sure everybody’s expectation level will increase again. So that may put a lot of pressure on me but I can handle it.”