Oh Ji-hyun makes stunning comeback at KLPGA
Initially, it was Seong Eun-jeong, a 17-year-old yet to make her full debut as a pro, who was expected to top the tournament. She led the tournament by three strokes by the end of the 17th hole in the final day.
The amateur golfer, who finished 39th in the last week’s event KIA Motors 30th Korea Women’s Open, shot 3-under on Sunday by the 17th hole of the BC Card-Hankyung Ladies Cup, which went from Thursday to Sunday at Island CC in Ansan, Gyeonggi.
Seong started off the event near the top of the leaderboard, finishing the first round at second on Thursday and shooting 5-under with only one bogey.
The 17-year-old climbed up to the top position in the leaderboard by the second round on Friday, finishing the second day with a 5-under score with five birdies and no bogeys.
Even with a double bogey during the next round on third day at par-4 14th hole, Seong remained firmly at the top with an 11-under score total until Saturday.
Considered the underdog as she was the only amateur out of 132 participants in the event, Seong had another strong start in the fourth round on Sunday, parring the first six holes until her bogey at the seventh hole put a damper on her par-run. Nevertheless, she pulled herself together and added two consecutive birdies at the eighth and ninth holes before a break.
She went through the remaining holes without a single bogey, but everything fell apart at the par-5 18th hole when she triple bogeyed the last hole to let the tournament go into playoff.
Initially, it was expected to be a two-way playoff between Seong and Choi Eun-woo.
Then Oh emerged out of nowhere.
Steadily rising from the 10th spot after the second day, Oh was ranked third by the final hole on Sunday, one stroke behind the Seong-Choi duo who finished the tournament 10-under. Oh was initially contending for the second place with Choi, but her bogey at the par-4 16th hole seemed to have ruined her chance, until she made her comeback at the 18th hole with an amazing birdie.
Her birdie putt, which was about two meters (6.5 feet) away from the pin, travelled the green and went into the hole to leave everyone at the gallery in awe.
Tying the tournament with 10-under 278, what was thought to be a two-way playoff became a three-way among Seong, Choi and Oh.
The three golfers, playing at the par-5 18th hole in the playoff, all roughed their first three shots, landing their fourths by the edge of the green all together. Oh’s ball landed closest to the pin.
Although Seong came near snatching a birdie for the playoff round, her ball was deflected off the edge of the hole and her chance for the pro win slipped from her hand along with it.
Oh was not going to miss that opportunity. Unfazed and calm, Oh pushed her birdie putt carefully towards the pin.
Her putting, which has been unstable throughout the tournament (except on the last 18th hole), finally came through for her and saved the day for the 20-year-old golfer as she nailed her birdie putt to claim her second career title.
“It was a rough day,” said Oh after the win. “I wanted to enjoy it but I missed a lot of opportunities so I was mentally drained.”
When asked about her struggle with putting, she answered, “I just thought I would follow my rhythm and, in the end, that worked fine.”
BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [firstname.lastname@example.org]