Kim Mi-hyun retires from LPGA

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Kim Mi-hyun retires from LPGA

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Kim Mi-hyun, right, an eight-time LPGA winner, hugs super rookie Kim Hyo-joo after announcing her retirement plans at the Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon, yesterday. [YONHAP]

Kim Mi-hyun, an eight-time winner on the LPGA Tour, said yesterday she is calling it quits after the Tour event to be held in Korea this week.

Kim broke the news during a press conference at the Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon, the venue of the KEB-HanaBank Championship that will kick off its three-day run today.

The retirement of Kim, 35, a leading member of the first-generation of Seoul Sisters who trail-blazed Korea’s success on the LPGA Tour, comes two months after the retirement of another first-generation golfer, Park Ji-eun, 37, known better as Grace Park on the Tour.

“It appears that many people were surprised at my sudden retirement,” Kim told the media conference. “I got surgery on my ankle and knee in January and it turned out that I am not in the right physical condition to continue a career as an athlete.”

Kim won twice on the LPGA Tour in 1999, her debut year on the big stage, which earned her the Rookie of the Year title.

Nicknamed by locals “Super Peanut” for her tiny frame, Kim won six more titles through the SemGroup Championship in May 2007, where she beat Juli Inkster of the United States in a playoff.

Throughout her 14-year LPGA career, Kim has earned $8.62 million.

Kim said that she has some regrets about retiring without achieving double-digit titles on the Tour, but said she is also excited about seeking another successful career as a coach.

To accentuate a generational shift for Korea’s women’s golf, Kim Hyo-joo, a rookie professional, attended the press conference and celebrated the closure of Kim Mi-hyun’s colorful career.

Kim Hyo-joo, 17, who was the world’s No. 2 amateur golfer next to Lydia Ko, will make her debut as a professional at the KEB-HanaBank Championship.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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