That’s what the gallery must have sounded like when Sei Young Kim holed out on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with countrywoman Inbee Park at last year’s LOTTE Championship presented by HERSHEY. Kim found the bottom of the cup after lacing an 8-iron from 154 yards to defeat Park in a shocking finish that further embedded her as a force to be reckoned with in 2015.
For the eventual Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, the tournament title was the second of the season and put her atop the LPGA Tour money list through nine events. Kim chipped in from just off the green on the 72nd hole to force the playoff, then one-upped herself in sudden-death.
It’s a victory Kim will remember forever.
“I don’t know what happened today,” Kim said through an interpreter after the dramatic victory. “Today I didn’t see it coming. I don’t know what I’ve done again to deserve this, but I feel like every time I win a tournament, I have to do something crazy or overcome some type of obstacles.
“I don’t know why it keeps happening, but it feels good.”
Kim will be back at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, this week with hopes of feeling good again on Saturday – the $1.8 million event begins Wednesday – and will face a strong field that includes world No. 1 Lydia Ko. Kim won the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix on March 20, and Ko has won the last two LPGA events since, so they could provide some quality this week.
Michelle Wie ended a substantial winless drought at the tournament in 2014 and will be back looking to re-create the same magic, while fellow past champions Suzann Pettersen (2013) and Ai Miyazato (2012) are also teeing it up this week. Other players to watch include 2016 event winners Hyo Joo Kim, Haru Nomura and Lexi Thompson, as well as Park and ANA Inspiration co-runner-up In Gee Chun, the Tour’s leading rookie who is second in scoring average.
Tournament champions have averaged 14-under-par winning scores at the par-72, 6,383-yard course, so a player will need plenty of birdies to stay in contention down the stretch. Former world No. 1s Na Yeon Choi and Cristie Kerr, along with Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak – who recently announced that 2016 will be her final season – will also be chasing birdies in Hawaii this week.
Golf Channel will carry live coverage Wednesday through Saturday from 7-11 p.m. ET from the island paradise. It may be hard to top last year’s theatrics, but anything is possible for LPGA stars.