Chun In-gee ends 2-year drought at KEB Hana

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Chun In-gee ends 2-year drought at KEB Hana


Left: Chun In-gee hits her bunker shot during the final round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. Above: Chun In-gee poses with the trophy after winning the tournament. [YONHAP]

INCHEON - After two years of waiting, Chun In-gee stormed through the final round to win the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club, Ocean Course in Incheon on Sunday.

Chun ended her two-week schedule in Korea with back-to-back victories as she also won the UL International Crown, a tournament that she competed in for Team Korea a week prior to the KEB Hana Bank Championship. This is Chun’s third LPGA victory and her first non-major victory on the LPGA Tour. With a win, Chun took home $300,000 of prize money.

With seven birdies, 10 pars and a bogey, Chun finished the tournament at 16 under par to win her first LPGA tournament title in two years, three shots ahead of Charley Hull of England, the runner-up.

Chun, who started the final round two shots behind the leaders, wasted no time in making her move up the leaderboard with back-to-back birdies on her first two holes. After more back-to-back birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, Chun took a one shot lead in the field.

From then on it was just Chun vs. Hull.

While Hull, who played in the group behind Chun, made a birdie on the par-5 seventh to tie for the lead, Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and Danielle Kang of the United States both made a double-bogey to fall out of contention, falling three shots behind the leaders. Chun once again wasted no time taking back a solo first place with a birdie on the par-4 ninth.

Although a bogey on the par-4 10th briefly took it back to a tie, Hull made a bogey on the par-3 12th while Chun chipped in for a par, cementing her lead.

Chun once again extended her lead with another birdie on the par-5 13th and another on a short par-4 15th. On the short par-4, Chun missed the green with her drive but successfully made an up-and-down for a birdie.

Continuing her momentum, Chun finished strong with pars on the next three holes to finish with a final round of six under par, at 66.

“When my win was finalized, all the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years kind of went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up constantly,” Chun said. “I’m exhilarated. I’m so happy.”

This is a long awaited victory for Chun as she hasn’t won a tournament since the Evian Championship in September 2016. After five runner-up finishes in the 2017 season, Jeon had been struggling more this year, with only two top-10 finishes prior to this weekend. Due to this, her world ranking dropped significantly, falling from fifth in January to 27th this week.

“I really wanted to do well coming into this event, and I was actually more frustrated by the way I was hitting the ball,” Chun said. “So I think that what was key to my win this week was that I tried not to be affected by the play of the other players, and I really tried to focus and stick to my style … I was able to win this week because I was really focused on playing my own game.”

Chun joined the LPGA Tour in 2016 with high prospects - she won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in her first appearance as a non-LPGA member. During her rookie season, she won another major, the 2016 Evian Championship, with a score of 21 under par, the lowest winning score in a major tournament for either men or women, and was named Rookie of the Year.

“I think naturally for some reason, I thought that my third win would also be a major,” Chun said. “Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t focus or I didn’t want to win at other events. I wanted to win and I did focus at these other events.”

Defending champion Ko Jin-young finished tied for fifth at 11 under par with an impressive final round score of eight under par, 64. Top ranked Park Sung-hyun finished tied for third at 12 under par, along with Jutanugarn and Minjee Lee of Australia.

This marks the end of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. KEB Hana Bank’s three year contract with the LPGA ended this year and the bank announced prior to the tournament that it will be moving to the Klpga.

The KEB Hana Bank Championship, established in 2002, started as the Sports Today CJ Nine Bridges Classic. In 2006, the name of the tournament changed to the Kolon-Hana Bank Championship until 2009. Until 2012 it was known as the LPGA Hana Bank Championship Presented by SK Telecom.

Starting next year, the LPGA BMW Championship will be hosted in Busan instead of the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

The very last edition of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship was a success, seeing a total of 68,047 fans visit the course throughout the weekend.

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