NAPLES, Fla. – In Gee Chun quietly persevered through more pain this season than she let anyone outside her team know.
Chun joined Nancy Lopez Sunday as the only players to win the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award and Vare Trophy for low scoring average in the same season.
Chun did so on playing the CME Group Tour Championship’s final round on pain medication and anti-inflammatories.
“It’s a huge achievement,” Dr. Won Park, Chun’s swing coach, said. “We never imagined this would happen at the start of the season, but she kept getting better, going from one level to the next, and then it seemed like the sky was the limit.”
Park said Chun has been playing most of this year with a bulging disc in her lower back and a small tear in her L5/S1 vertebra segment. She won the Evian Championship in September, but last month the back began bothering her again. She withdrew from the KB Financial Star Championship, the KLPGA’s final major of the year.
Park said Chun is planning to take the rest of the year off without touching a club, to rest and rehab. He said the injury has flared up intermittently since she was hurt in that controversial mishap at the year’s start, when Ha Na Jang’s father lost control of a 25-pound suitcase and dropped it down an escalator at the Singapore Airport before the start of the HSBC Championship in March. The suitcase struck Chun in the lower back and knocked her out of that tournament.
“Her tailbone healed up from that, but there’s still recurring pain in her lower back, where she has the little tear,” Park said. “The doctors have told her she needs four to five weeks of rest for it to heal.”
Chun surpassed her team’s expectations rebounding from the injury. She missed several starts in the spring.
“It’s been a huge hurdle to overcome,” Park said. “The injury’s been bothering her, and with the cold, chilly weather this morning, she wasn’t comfortable on the range before the round. It took her a while to warm up.”
Park said Chun likely won’t touch a club until the New Year, but she’s aiming for a return to the LPGA at either the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas or the Honda Thailand.