SAN MARTIN, Calif. – The Flying Dumbos are back.
That’s what members of In Gee Chun’s fan club calls themselves, and they’ll be rooting hard for Chun to become the first player since Karrie Webb (2000-01) to win back-to-back U.S. Women’s Opens. Chun goes by the nickname “Dumbo,” a moniker her swing coach, Won Park, gave her because she seems to hear everything going on around her.
“There are many Flying Dumbo fans that are going to be here,” Chun said through a translator. “I've always enjoyed playing at the tournaments with their support.”
Chun is off to a strong start in her rookie season, but she is still seeking her second LPGA title. She would like nothing better than for it to come this week at CordeValle Golf Club.
“Looking at my past career, I've played very well under pressure,” Chun said. “So, I'm going to enjoy this pressure. I'm looking forward to my play this week.”
In 11 starts this year, Chun has finished second or third five times. She’s running away with the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race with more than double the points of her closest challenger, Australia’s Su Oh.
“The win at the U.S. Women's Open last year was my dream come true,” Chun said. “And since my dream came true, my dream has continued to come true again and again. This year has been great.”
The only setback was the controversial incident at the Singapore airport early this season, when Ha Na Jang’s father dropped a travel bag that crashed down an escalator and injured Chun, knocking her out of three LPGA events. Chun said she is almost fully recovered from injuries to her lumbar muscles, sacroiliac joint and pelvis.
“I would say I’m about 99 percent perfect,” Chun said. “When it gets cold, I get stiff, but it's not a problem at all. I'm physically and mentally perfectly fine.”
Chun’s work this week goes beyond defending her title at the U.S. Women’s Open. She is No. 6 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and that makes her No. 3 on the South Korean Olympic qualifying list among four players who are going to earn spots in Rio de Janeiro next month. Two Koreans would have to pass her this week for her to lose her spot, maybe three, if the injured Inbee Park isn’t able to play. It’s the last week for qualifying.
Chun, by the way, said she plans to play if she qualifies.
“It is such a huge honor to be an Olympian,” she said. “I'm aware that there are a lot of concerns regarding health issues and security issues, but to be able to play at the Olympics is the biggest achievement and honor. So if I get a chance to play at the Olympics, I'll do my best.”