Young talent dominates KLPGA this season

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Young talent dominates KLPGA this season

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Lee Bo-mee tees off during the first round of the Lotte Mart Women’s Open at the Sky Hills Jeju Country Club on Thursday. [NEWSIS]

The KLPGA kicked off the season with a win by Sim Hyun-hwa, who claimed the first professional title of her career at the Lotte Mart Women’s Open on Jeju Island on Sunday.

Although it is impossible to predict how the rest of the season will go after just one game, experts are predicting that this year won’t be much different from last because no single woman dominates the KLPGA.

In fact, last year, only three golfers - Lee Bo-mee, Yang Soo-jin and Ahn Shin-ae - collected multiple wins from 21 KLPGA tours. Lee won three, while Yang and Ahn captured two trophies each. Each of the other 14 tournaments had their own champion.

This week, however, golf fans may find it easy to pick the winner of the Hyundai E&C Seoul Economy Women’s Open, which starts on Friday at the Suwon Country Club in Yongin, Gyeonggi.

The tournament has some of the best golfers in the field, including last year’s KLPGA Player of the Year, Lee Bo-mee, who is clear favorite to win this year.

Lee is part of an elite group of players who were all born in 1988. All have played in the tournament since it started in 2007 and all have impressive titles to their names.

It is the general consensus among golf experts that these ladies have the best depth of talent among the other age groups in the KLPGA. And all of the previous tournament winners have been born in the same year.

Shin Ji-Yai was the LPGA tour money winner in 2009 and was the first player to win the Hyundai E&C Seoul Economy Open in ’07. Later, the baton was passed to Kim Ha-neul, Lee Hyeon-ju and Lee Jeong-eun, all of whom were born in 1988.

Lee Bo-mee, the tournament favorite, is playing her third KLPGA season. She got off to a good start this year, hitting seven-under-par in the final round of the Lotte Mart Open to finish third.

For Lee, winning the Hyundai E&C Seoul Economy Open is a long-held dream.

“I know all of the past winners were born in 1988 and I want to be one of them,” Lee said to Ilgan Sports. “The golf course is right next to my home, so I’m sure I’ll feel comfortable throughout the tournament.”

Lee had a breakout season last year when she was named player of the year. She also earned the most tour money and had the lowest scoring average among others in the league.

This year, Lee played her first game in Japan when she participated in the Yokohama Tire PRGR Ladies Cup in March. She led the first round until the earthquake and tsunami forced the tournament’s cancellation.

At Friday’s tournament, she will be looking to get her first win of the season, backed by her drive shot and accurate putting.

But she will have plenty of competition. Other 23-year-olds that could take the tournament are Kim Hyun-ji and Nam Min-ji.

Kim, who has two KLPGA career wins, has a driver shot that averages almost 260 yards. Nam hasn’t collected any wins in the KLPGA tour since her debut in 2006 but she is hoping to cash in on the luck of her fellow 1988ers with her accurate iron shots.

There are also several golfing veterans looking to make their mark against the youngsters, especially those who have come back to the KLPGA after playing in the U.S. LPGA: Chung Il-me, Park Hee-jung and Lee Jung-yeon.

Chung and Park, both previous KLPGA tour money winners, are off to slow starts this season, having missed the cut in the Lotte Mart Open. But both have said they are looking forward to reviving their careers with a win.

Ji Eun-hee and Lee Jee-young, who both play in the U.S. LPGA, are also coming back to Korea to participate the event.


By Moon Seung-jin, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

KLPGA 지각변동속 돌풍의 88년생들

17일 끝난 국내 KLPGA투어 국내 개막전인 롯데마트여자오픈에서 심현화(22·요진건설)가 생애 첫 우승을 차지했다.

프로 3년차인 심현화가 챔피언 클럽에 가입하면서 올 시즌 KLPGA투어도 지난해에 이어 매 대회 치열한 접전이 예상된다. 이번 대회에서도 심현화를 포함해 아직 우승이 없는 강민주(21·2위), 정연주(19·공동 3위), 이승현(20·공동 9위) 등이 우승 경쟁을 펼쳤다. 지난해 KLPGA투어는 21개 대회에서 이보미(23·하이마트·3승), 양수진(20·넵스), 안신애(21·비씨카드·이상 2승)을 제외하고는 매 대회 새로운 챔피언이 탄생했다. 한 개 대회를 통해 올 시즌 판도를 예측할 수는 없지만 신인들의 돌풍이 거셀 것으로 보인다. 올 시즌 판도를 예측할 수 있는 두 번째 대회인 현대건설 서울경제 여자오픈(총상금 6억원)이 22일부터 사흘간 경기도 용인에 위치한 수원골프장 신코스(파72·6448야드)에서 열린다.

한국 여자골프에서 '88년생'은 최강의 선수층을 자랑한다. LPGA투어에서 뛰고 있는 신지애(미래에셋), 김인경, 박희영(이상 하나금융그룹), 김송희(하이트)는 물론 KLPGA투어에서 지난해 4관왕에 올랐던 이보미(하이마트), 김하늘(비씨카드), 이정은(호반건설), 이현주, 김민지(LIG) 등이 모두 88년생이다.

현대건설 여자오픈은 올해로 5회째를 맞이하는 동안 신기하게 88년생들이 우승 트로피를 독차지했다. 2007년 신지애가 초대 챔피언에 오른 이후 김하늘, 이현주(23), 이정은이 차례로 정상에 올랐다. 따라서 올해도 '88년생 우승 행진'이 계속될 수 있을지가 가장 큰 관심사이다.

88년생 가운데 강력한 우승 후보는 이보미이다. 이보미는 롯데마트여자오픈에서도 마지막날 7언더파를 몰아치며 공동 3위에 오르며 지난해 상금왕의 저력을 보여줬다. 이보미는 "대회장이 바로 집 옆에 위치해 있어 편안한 마음으로 플레이를 할 수 있을 것 같다. 그 동안 역대 우승자들이 모두 88년생들인 것으로 알고 있는데 나도 그 대열에 합류하고 싶다"고 말했다. 88년생 가운데 이 대회 우승 경험이 없는 김현지, 남민지도 '88년 챔피언 클럽'에 합류하겠다는 각오다.

올 시즌의 또 다른 변수는 풍부한 경험을 자랑하는 고참들의 활약여부이다. LPGA투어에서 KLPGA투어로 다시 돌아온 정일미(39·하이마트), 이정연(32·토마토저축은행), '아기엄마' 박희정(31·현대스위스금융그룹) 등도 명예 회복을 벼르고 있다. 정일미와 박희정은 롯데마트여자오픈에서 예선탈락의 고배를 마셨다. 국내 상금왕 출신인 정일미와 박희정은 현대건설 여자오픈에서 구겨진 자존심을 회복하겠다며 투지를 불태우고 있다. 이 대회에는 LPGA투어에서 뛰고 있는 지은희(25·팬코리아)와 이지영(26·볼빅)이 출전해 국내파와 경쟁한다.

골프전문 J골프는 22일 1라운드는 낮 12시 30분부터, 2라운드와 최종라운드가 열리는 23~24일은 낮 12시부터 생중계한다.

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