Koreans storm back to defend golfing titleKorean female golfers have knocked off their Japanese counterparts for the third year in a row as part of the 2004 Korea-Japan Women’s National Golf Team Match Play Competition that ended on Sunday.
Korea’s top female golfers overcame an early deficit and bad weather to defeat the Japanese 28-20 in the two-day competition held at the Otsu Country Club.
After single-hole match play on the first day, Japan led Korea with four wins, two draws and six losses. Korea stormed back during the second day’s stroke play, recording eight wins, two draws and two losses.
Since the competition began in 1999, Korea has won three times and Japan twice.
Korean golfer Han Hee-won, 26, was pitted against Japanese golfer Yuri Fudo on the first day and Michiko Hatori on the second, and was named MVP for the tournament.
During stroke play, Jang Jeong, who has yet to lose to a Japanese player in the Korea-Japan competition, was one half of the first pairing off the tee. She went on to defeat Fudo with a one-under-par 71.
The entire Korean team was given a boost when Lee Ji-hi edged Miho Koga by one stroke. The strong finish by Lee seemed to engergize the Koreans. Christina Kim, Go U-sun, Han, Mun Hyeon-hi, Grace Park, Kim Mi-hyun and Pak Se-ri all charged on to victory.
The highlight of the day was the match between Pak and up-and-comer Ai Miyazato. About 2,000 spectators braved the drizzling rain to follow the two players around the course.
Team pairings are usually kept secret, but the captains of each team agreed on revealing where two members of their 12-member team would be assigned.
“I will take Miyajato,” Pak told team captain Go before the pairings were assigned. Miyajato, who beat Mun in the single-hole match play, also said she wanted to play Pak, who accepted the challenge.
Despite the concerns over large crowds following the matchup, Pak said it would not matter.
On Saturday, Pak drove the ball out of bounds twice, but on the second day she used her woods off the tee and showed her competency.
On the third and 11th holes, Pak chalked up birdies, but she was also inconsistent, bogeying the 16th and 17th holes. She parred the 18th while Miyajato hit a bogey.
“I almost sprained my wrist during the match and there were some difficult moments, but I had some good putts at crucial moments,” Pak said.
Korean-American golfer Christina Kim, who competed in the event for the first time, promised before the tournament that she would finish the stroke play at five-under-par or better. She fulfilled her promise by hitting six under par.
“Yesterday I won by four strokes, unfortunately I could do no better than a tie for the single-hole match play,” Kim said. “Anyway, I have a hoarse voice after so much shouting and cheering.”
Grace Park, who joined the competition on the second day after participating in a different event in Hong Kong, beat Toshimi Kimura by three strokes.
When Japanese reporters inquired as to the reason behind the Korean golfers’ suberb play, Park replied, “Kimchi power.”
Japanese team members were keen to end Korea’s winning streak and seemed especially downtrodden after experiencing their third straight loss.
“We should have the widened the gap during the single-hole match,” Fudo said.
by Chung Jeh-won
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