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Lee Jeong-eun joins Tour today

She enters the LPGA as a strong contender for Rookie of the Year

Feb 14,2019
Lee Jeong-eun [NEWS1]
Lee Jeong-eun will finally start her first season on the LPGA Tour as a full-time member today at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

Lee was a dominant player on the KLPGA Tour, where she won seven tournaments, and earned her full-time LPGA Tour status this season by winning the LPGA Tour’s Qualifying tournament in November 2018. Lee is the highest ranked rookie on the LPGA Tour this season, at No. 20.

“By playing in a lot of tournaments last year, I tried to regain the muscle I lost,” Lee said. “In Thailand, I worked on my short game and 100 meter shots and in. My focus was conditioning so that I could get through the season. There aren’t any big changes physically, but since I slowly lose muscular strength towards the end of the season, I think it’ll be important as to how I continue my workout.”

Lee teed off her career in the ninth grade, about five years later than most players. Despite her late start, she earned a spot on the national team in 2015 and managed to win a gold medal at the 2015 Summer Universiade that same year. Within a few months, Lee made the KLPGA Tour after playing in the Jump and Dream tours.

Lee went on to win the KLPGA Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and reached even greater heights in 2017, capturing four titles en route to earning the Player of the Year honors.

Just as Lee did on the KLPGA Tour, she will be adding the number “6” to her name on the LPGA Tour. When she made her debut on the KLPGA Tour, Lee had to add that number to her name as there were already five other Lee Jeong-euns active on the Tour.

Although it seems like business as usual for Lee, she has actually made a major change to her equipment for the LPGA Tour. Aside from her putter and wedges, Lee changed all her clubs. She also found a new caddie, Adam Woodward, to help her make a quick adjustment to the United States.

As Lee is making her debut on the LPGA Tour after a dominant career on the KLPGA Tour, she is projected to be the top candidate as this year’s Rookie of the Year. If Lee wins the award, she will become the fifth Korean in a row to win the LPGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year award.

“I feel a little pressure coming into the season being highly ranked before playing my first official LPGA event as a member,” Lee was quoted as saying on LPGA website. “I feel a bit nervous since it’s my first tournament, so I don’t want to think about the score too much and I want to play the best I can.”

The Korean golfers who have won the Rookie of the Year Award tend to play well in their first tournament of the season. The 2016 Rookie of the Year Chun In-gee finished tied for third at Coates Golf Championship and 2017 Rookie of the Year Park Sung-hyun also finished third at her first tournament, HSBC Women’s Champion.

Ko Jin-young, the 2018 Tour Rookie of the Year, got off to a tremendous start in her first season on the Tour by winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, her debut tournament as a full-time member. Even more impressive, Ko had a wire-to-wire victory. By winning the tournament, Ko became the first golfer on the LPGA Tour in 67 years to win in her debut as a full-time member.

Due to the recent success of Korean rookies, Lee is under considerable pressure to do the same. Despite the high expectations, Lee said she’s going to stay patient and gain experience in her rookie season.

“I received a lot of awards in Korea, but I’m a rookie again on the LPGA Tour,” Lee said. “If possible, I want to play in as many tournaments as possible and my priority is to gain experience. If I consistently stack up Rookie of the Year points, maybe I’ll be able to see some good results.”

Lee will tee off her first round as a full-time LPGA Tour rookie today at 8:17 a.m. at the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, Australia.

BY KIM JI-HAN, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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