Perhaps that is because K.B., as she is called on the Futures Golf Tour, is always in the hunt -- always hanging around the lead, always challenging and chasing. As an 18-year-old rookie in 2004, she finished in the top 10 seven times and made 17 of 18 cuts in a year that included two second-place finishes and a final money ranking of eighth.
So it came as no surprise that Bae would again charge from behind in today's final round of the $70,000 IOS Futures Golf Classic to win her first professional title in four starts this season. Bae trailed the leader by five shots mid-round, but remained focused and birdied two of her last four holes to card a final-round 70. That moved the teen into a three-way playoff at 5-under-par 211.
But after returning to the 18th hole for a second time at the Underwood Golf Complex Sunrise Course, Bae the chaser, finally became Bae the closer. Her competition, Tara Bateman of Phoenix, who had been the final-round leader for most of the day, along with Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Korea, who fired a career-low 65, each stumbled with three-foot par putts that would have forced a second playoff hole.
'I didn't expect them to miss those putts,' said Bae, of Seoul, Korea. 'I thought we'd play another hole. This is just unbelievable.'
Bateman, who shot a 1-under-par final round of 71, toured the front nine holes of the 6,349-yard course with four birdies and one bogey this morning. She added another birdie on the 10th. Earlier, Bateman grabbed the lead outright from Adrienne Gautreaux of Mabank, Texas, when Gautreaux bogeyed the fifth hole and Bateman birdied. Bateman birdied the sixth and Gautreaux bogeyed the seventh, giving Bateman a three-shot cushion.
'I looked at the leaderboard after nine holes and could see that Choi was six under for the day, so I knew I needed some additional cushion,' said Bateman, 25, who played her college golf at Baylor University. 'I wanted to make a run at it. I certainly didn't think par was going to win.'
Choi was the first to finish. Her bogey-free, seven-birdie round had players in the leader's group a little nervous as they stared at her number on the board. The Futures Tour rookie hit 17 greens and was hanging out at the club's back patio waiting to see who would fold or who would come in with the score to win.
'I'm nervous and I'm excited, but I had fun,' said Choi, 20, whose best career finish had been ninth place last year on the Korean LPGA and a fifth-place finish earlier this season in Tampa on the Futures Tour. 'I felt it was going to be a good day today.'
Gautreaux righted herself on the back nine and charged back into a tie at five under with one hole to play. But that late charge ended when she didn't get up and down for par on the final hole from 20 feet. She settled into a tie for fourth with rookie Sarah Huarte of Shingle Springs, Calif., whose weekend scores of 67-69 moved the 2004 NCAA individual champion into the top five for the first time as a pro.
Last week's winner, Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, also made a run for a spot in the playoff, but instead of making birdie from 27 feet on the 18th green, she ran her putt 2 feet past, then lipped out her comeback to drop a shot.
That left Choi, Bateman and Bae. But it was Bae's day. And the daughter of Chan Soo Bae, her faithful caddie-father who played professional soccer for Spain's Real Madrid, knew it was her time to step up. Her father and her mother, who had played world-class table tennis, spent so many years before this moment ingraining the spirit of competition into the head of their talented eldest daughter.
And today, it showed.
'I think she is just a solid player,' said Bateman of Bae. 'To be that solid all the time is incredible, and she has a great short game. It was due time for her to win.'
The three-time Korean Open champion, who was ranked sixth on the Korean LPGA Money List in 2003, bogeyed only the fifth hole and posted three birdies in today's final round. But it was enough. She had learned from her athletic parents how to patiently wait for the moment and to pounce whenever opportunity presented itself.
'Both of my parents have really good athletic minds and they gave it to me,' said Bae, handling her own interview in careful English. 'It has made me more comfortable and calm.'
K.B. calmly jumped from 13th to first on the season money list with her $9,800 winner's check. And her peers can expect the never-rattled demeanor of Kyeong Bae to calmly contend for the rest of the year.
x-Kyeong Bae, $9,800 72-69-70--211
Hye Jung Choi, $6,085 73-73-65--211
Tara Bateman, $6,085 72-68-71--211
Sarah Huarte, $3,736 76-67-69--212
Adrienne Gautreaux, $3,736 69-71-72--212
Virada Nirapathpongporn, $2,388 73-71-69--213
Courtney Wood, $2,388 73-69-71--213
Ji Min Jeong, $1,951 73-72-69--214
Kelly Lagedrost, $1,951 74-68-72--214
Katie Connelly, $1,610 70-74-71--215
Kristy McPherson, $1,610 75-67-73--215
Christine Boucher, $1,426 78-66-72--216
Soon-Hwa Lee, $1,294 74-73-70--217
Kellee Booth, $1,294 71-71-75--217
Chiharu Yamaguchi, $1,011 76-72-70--218
Su A Kim, $1,011 74-73-71--218
Saki Uechi, $1,011 75-72-71--218
Jenny Gleason, $1,011 70-75-73--218
Alena Sharp, $1,011 73-72-73--218
Janell Howland, $1,011 78-66-74--218
Aimee Cho, $779 70-78-71--219
Anna Knutsson, $779 75-73-71--219
Kristin Dufour, $779 76-70-73--219
Lori Atsedes, $779 75-71-73--219
Meaghan Francella, $779 75-70-74--219