Professional golf is being played this week, and not just in an exhibition or fundraising format. The KLPGA is coming off an extensive break with a major championship, the KLPGA Championship at Lakewood Country Club in Yangju. The event will be played this Thursday through Sunday.
Four of the LPGA Tour’s top Korean-born players – Sung Hyun Park, Sei Young Kim, Hyo Joo Kim and Jeongeun Lee6 - are in the field and looking forward to sharpening their games in their homeland.
Sei Young Kim, who won the CME Group Tour Championship in 2019 and is No. 6 in the Rolex Rankings, said, “It's been a long time since I’ve been greeted by Korean fans at a KLPGA Tour event. The circumstances (with the lockdown due to COVID-19) hasn’t been good so I’m thankful to all the sponsors for holding this tournament in such a difficult time. We need to pay the Korean people back for all that they’ve gone through by showing them our best.”
Park, ranked third in the world and coming off a two-win season in 2019, was also thrilled to be back in competition, saying: “I am very happy and proud to have such a major golf event as my first start (of the year) in Korea as a Korean player. I've had a lot of time by myself.
“As LPGA tour player, I'm pretty nervous playing in Korea for the first time this year,” Park continued. “I really want to show a good performance since it's my first event. I know many people are cheering for me. And I hope all the players and fans will be uplifted, not just by me, but by this event. I certainly want to play well for all golf fans.”
The first case of COVID-19 was announced in South Korea on January 20, 2020. By the first week in April, the country had approximately 10,500 cases and more than 200 deaths. But stringent quarantine and contact rules, along with aggressive testing, minimized the impact of the disease, and by the first of May, people in Seoul returned to work and resumed reasonably normal activities.
Still, the KLPGA Championship will be contested without fans out of an abundance of precaution. And while it is far too early to make predictions about the outcome, most observers will be excited just to see live golf again.
“I played my first tournament (at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions) in January,” Sei Young Kim said. “Then COVID-19 occurred. And as tournaments were canceled or postponed, I had to stay at home. I did a lot of what I could do while staying in the U.S.—spent a lot of time with family and I played a lot of games but no golf.
“Now I'm in the process of resetting goals for this season because the Olympics was postponed (until 2021),” she continued. “And I've been notified that the LPGA tour will resume in July, so I'd like to prepare as much I can before then.”
LPGA officials are monitoring the KLPGA Championship, along with all other sporting events scheduled in the near future. The procedures for how LPGA Tour play will resume are still being discussed but the Tour is committed to resuming competition in as safe an environment as possible.
That is good news. Lee6 summed up the feelings of all when she said: “Everyone must be exhausted because of COVID-19. I hope watching us play will give you some strength. So, enjoy the week.”