HIGH HOPES OF MAKING THE LPGA FOR KLPGA CHAMPION BAE
Seon Woo Bae clinched her fourth professional KLPGA victory at last week’s HITE JINRO Championship, the fourth of five majors on the Korean tour. With her triumph, the now four-time winner escalated up the KLPGA Money List to the no. 2 spot, and will join a strong field of LPGA Tour players competing in the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at SKY72 Golf and Resort.
“That win was a dream come true,” said the 24-year-old Bae. “I feel like I'm on a winning streak, and if I keep up this upward momentum, I think I can have fun and do well out there this week, so I'm looking forward to it.”
Bae’s best finish at this event was T7 in 2016, the same year she won twice on the Korean Tour. She has high hopes of following in the footsteps of this week’s defending champion, LPGA rookie Jin Young Ko, who won this event last year as a KLPGA player and has blazed the trail for other aspiring KLPGA players to follow suit onto the LPGA Tour.
“The LPGA Tour is kind of the ultimate dream. And if I were given that opportunity by winning, I'd say I definitely would have to talk a lot with Jin Young because I understand that last year after a win she really did a lot of soul searching to decide to go to the LPGA.”
BIG EXPECTATIONS THIS WEEK FOR LPGA ROOKIE KO
Defending champion Jin Young Ko stormed onto the LPGA Tour after achieving her dreams of earning LPGA status by winning last year’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. Ready to defend her title this week at SKY72’s Ocean Course, Ko reflected on the significance of that win as a KLPGA player, a breakthrough that kickstarted her professional career on Tour.
“I think that for the Korean golfers out there who wish to go to the LPGA, this event has more significance than a major event of the KLPGA,” said the LPGA rookie. “But at the same time, I think that's why some Korean golfers who wish to go to the LPGA might feel a little bit more pressure when they take part in this event.”
Ko conceded that the decision to accept LPGA status was not an easy one for the young golfer to reach and she hopes that her Korean peers would carefully weigh the pros and cons, if they ever faced the same options.
“One of the things that I kind of considered when I made that decision was that I would have to live away from home and live away from my parents,” said Ko. “Of course if [Seon Woo Bae] were to win, I would want her to join the Tour, but I would give her advice on a lot of the logistical things that she might have to take into consideration.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEFENDING CHAMPION JIN YOUNG KO
- As a 2018 LPGA rookie, Ko has made one cut in 20 starts, with nine top-10 finishes including a victory at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
- Ko was a non-member when she made her first LPGA victory last year 2017 KEB Hana Bank Championship, two-strokes ahead of Sung Hyun Park
- Ko leads the 2018 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings with 1,034 points with Georgia Hall in second with 754 points
- Prior to her debut on the LPGA Tour, Ko was a 10-time KLPGA winner
- In 2015, Ko was runner-up at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, falling to Inbee Park by three strokes
- In four starts at the KEB Hana Bank Championship, Ko finishes include a victory (2017), T45 (2016), T21 (2015), T42 (2014)
EXTRA BOUNCE IN CIGANDA'S STEP AT THIS WEEK'S LPGA KEB HANA BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
Some players have an extra bounce in their step when they arrive at certain golf courses and for Carlota Ciganda that is certainly the case at SKY72 Golf & Resort’s Ocean Course, the venue for this week's LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. The long-hitting Ciganda won the tournament here in 2016, edging out Alison Lee in a gripping playoff to claim her first LPGA Tour title, and then last year she tied for eighth.
"I really like this course," said Spaniard Ciganda. "It's pretty long and it's a tough course. We don't get to play too many courses like this all the year round on the LPGA Tour, so I like that. If you hit it long, you have an advantage on this course and the conditions are tough this week. It's windy and it's going to be cold. I like it because it reminds me of home. The rough is thick so you have to hit fairways and the greens are very firm, so it's going to be a tough test."
Ciganda stormed from five strokes back to win the 2016 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, edging out Lee with a birdie on the first extra hole. She then landed a second LPGA Tour victory just one month later at the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but she has not won on the Tour since then. This year, however, she has produced excellent form with five top-10s highlighted by a runner-up spot at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic and third place at the U.S. Women's Open.
"I have been playing very solid from tee to green, and that's been the key," said Ciganda. "I've had a great year, I've been very consistent. I've had lots of top-10s and top-20s, I was third at the U.S. Open, seventh at the British Open so I'm happy with the way the year went but I would really like to get a win somewhere between here and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. I would love to win one of these Asian events."