Lee Jeong-eun opts to join LPGA

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Lee Jeong-eun opts to join LPGA

On Wednesday, Lee Jeong-eun - who has been one of the best players on the Korean women’s golf tour these past two years - decided to take her talent to the United States.

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Lee Jeong-eun

In a statement released by her agency, the 22-year-old winner of the LPGA qualifying tournament said she will play on the U.S. tour full-time starting in 2019.

Lee, the 2017 Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Player of the Year, won the LPGA Q-Series earlier this month, earning a full-fledged card for the world’s premier women’s golf tour for 2019. But she didn’t make her decision right away, saying she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be away from her family at this juncture in her life and career.

Lee had also said that she didn’t want to fritter away the opportunity simply because she wanted to be comfortable at home.

“My primary goal is to make a soft landing,” Lee said in the statement. “Rather than going hard after titles, I’ll just try to do the best I can every week.”

Lee teed off her career in the ninth grade, about five years later than most players. Despite her late start, she earned a spot on the national team in 2015 and managed to win a gold medal at the 2015 Summer Universiade that same year. Within a few months, Lee made the KLPGA Tour after playing in the Jump and Dream tours.

Lee went on to win the KLPGA Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and reached even greater heights in 2017, capturing four titles en route to earning the Player of the Year honors and finishing first in money and scoring average.

This year, Lee has been splitting her time between the Korean tour and the U.S. tour while still defending her KLPGA titles in both money and scoring averages.

Mostly on the merit of her KLPGA performances, Lee is already No. 20 in the world rankings. She will try to become the fifth-consecutive Korean to win the LPGA Rookie of the Year award in 2019.

In 2018, Ko Jin-young, another former KLPGA star, won the top rookie honors after winning her first start in February and notching 13 top-10 finishes.

Korea currently boasts four players inside the top 10 in the world rankings, led by No. 2 Park Sung-hyun. Park is also one of the many Korean golfers to have transitioned to the LPGA Tour after topping the KLPGA Tour. Before joining the LPGA Tour in 2017, Park dominated the KLPGA Tour throughout the 2016 season, winning six tournaments.

In 2017, Park won the LPGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year and the Player of the Year award. This season, Park briefly took the No.1 spot in the World Ranking and won three tournaments.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]

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