EARLY BIRDIE BLAZE DRIVES JEONG EUN LEE’S DAY
Jeong Eun Lee opened on fire on Thursday, playing the back nine (her first nine) at 9-under 29. She reeled off three consecutive birdies at holes 11-13 and made the turn on a streak of four more birdies. Her game cooled on the front, as Lee returned only one birdie on her closing nine holes. But as the big smile on her face clearly communicated, Lee really enjoyed her round.
“My short game on the greens came together really well,” said Lee, who missed last year’s tournament while rehabbing an injury. “I was able to make long birdie putts that went in and I want to say that those really came into play today.
Lee is looking for a breakthrough moment in her LPGA Tour career. She joined the Tour in 2015 after spending 2006-14 on the KLPGA Tour. She has just seven top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, most recently at the 2018 Kia Classic. Her best finish of 2019 is a tie for 18th at last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G.
YEALIMI NOH MAKING HER PROFESSIONAL LPGA DEBUT ONE TO REMEMBER
After a summer to remember in 2018, Yealimi Noh turned down an offer to play collegiate golf at UCLA and instead set off on a professional career. After turning pro at the beginning of 2019, Noh successfully Monday qualified for this week’s Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic to get into her third LPGA event and first as a professional. The work paid off, as she returned eight birdies, one eagle and a bogey for a first-round 63. She sits one stroke behind leader Yu Liu.
“I was actually really nervous on the first hole. I told myself I wasn't nervous, but it was a little different playing my first LPGA as a pro,” said Noh, who opened with three consecutive birdies. “I chunked it on the first hole, but it was all right. Throughout the round I got a little more comfortable.”
Last July, Noh won the Girl’s Junior PGA Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in three consecutive weeks. Since turning professional without status on any major tour, she has received two sponsor exemptions on the Symetra Tour, finishing T13 at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and T35 at the Windsor Golf Classic. She has also played on the KLPGA Tour at the KIA MOTORS 33rd Korea Women’s Open Golf Championship. Although she has gotten several playing opportunities, Noh said the last couple of months have felt like a rollercoaster.
“Beginning of the year, I was really struggling just adjusting to pro life,” said Noh. “Not having anything to play I was like really struggling, wasn't in the best part of my game, but to come back and work hard and just finally play is really good.”
Rolex Rankings No. 38 Yu Liu (62)
- Liu’s 62 is the lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; her previous best was a 63 in the second round of the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 24 putts
- Liu is in her second season on the LPGA Tour
- This is Liu’s 17th event of the 2019 season; her best finish is a tie for second at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, which is also the best finish of her LPGA Tour career
- She is competing in her second Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; she tied for 23rd in 2018
Rolex Rankings No. 102 Jeong Eun Lee (63)
- Lee’s 63 is the lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; her previous best was a 64 in the second round of the 2017 Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
- Lee is in her fifth season on the LPGA Tour; her best finish is a tie for third at the 2017 ShopRite LPGA Classic and as a non-member at the 2006 Mizuno Classic, her rookie year on the KLPGA Tour
- This is Lee’s 12th event of the 2019 season; her best finish is a tie for 18th at last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
- She is competing in her second Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; she tied for 55th in 2017
- Lee is the fifth player in KLPGA Tour history to have the name Jeong Eun Lee and plays with the numeral 5 in Korea; Jeongeun Lee6 (1-under 71) is also in this week’s field
Rolex Rankings No. 558 Yealimi Noh (63)
- She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Noh, who turns 18 in two weeks, is playing in the third LPGA Tour event of her career; she finished T46 at the 2018 CP Women’s Open and T59 at the 2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, both as an amateur
- Noh turned professional in February 2019 after winning the 2018 Girl’s Junior PGA Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and 2018 Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in consecutive weeks
- Noh earned a spot in the tournament by tying for the win at the Monday Qualifier; two Monday Qualifiers have won an LPGA Tour event – Brooke Henderson (2015 Cambia Portland LPGA Classic) and Laurel Kean (2000 State Farm LPGA Classic)
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 62 (-10), Pornanong Phatlum (final round, 2017), Katherine Kirk (first round, 2018) and Yu Liu (first round, 2019)
36 holes: 128 (-16), Sei Young Kim, 2018
54 holes: 192 (-24), Sei Young Kim, 2018
72 holes: 257 (-31), Sei Young Kim, 2018