Monday, the KLPGA’s leading money winner and 10th ranked player in the world, Sung Hyun Park, held a press conference to announce she will be joining the LPGA Tour in 2017.
With a willowy frame and a classic swing reminiscent of a bygone era, Park became a fixture on leaderboards this season, particularly major championships. Park made seven starts on the LPGA Tour in 2016 and contended in three of season’s five majors, including a share of runner-up at the Evian Championship, which begged the question as to why Park had not yet joined the Tour. But the young Korean says it was her dream all along.
“The ultimate goal of my career was to join the LPGA,” Park told LPGA.com via email. “I dreamt of playing side by side with global golf stars and didn’t want to miss the opportunity when it eventually arrived.”
The opportunity presented itself this season when Park climbed into the top-40 on the LPGA Tour’s money list, which earned her category 10 status on the LPGA Tour Priority List for 2017 and will earn her entry into the majority of the season’s events.
“Although I still feel someone inadequate, I felt far more inadequate before and thought I still needed more time to prepare,” Park said. “The big change in environment that would come with joining the Tour also made me hesitant.”
Park is following in the footsteps of fellow Korean In Gee Chun, who made the transition last season from a successful stint on the KLPGA to take up membership on the LPGA Tour. Like Park, Chun didn’t speak much English when she decided to join the Tour but took a chance and shared the same advice with Park.
“Everyone told me not to worry. They told me to just relax and that I will really enjoy myself while playing in the LPGA.”
Park has already decided to relocate to Florida where she will make her home base in the United States. She is still formulating a schedule for next season but says she won’t be following the Brooke Henderson model of playing nearly every event in her first full season and is confident her transition from the KLPGA will be an easy one.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel that there were any major differences, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to achieve good scores while competing in those previous LPGA tournaments,” Park said in comparing the two tours. “However, after I join the tour full time next year, I think some differences will become more apparent.”
The biggest change Park is expecting to see is within herself as she begins a new chapter in her career.
“I am most looking forward to seeing a new version of myself. Since this will be my first step as a rookie in the LPGA and moving to a new country far from my home, I look forward to seeing how I will change and adapt to this new environment.”