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J.Y. Ko the latest KLPGA talent to win an LPGA title

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2017, 2:52 pm

The South Korean pipeline delivering promising young stars to the LPGA continues to flow.

Jin Young Ko won the KEB Hana Bank Championship Sunday, becoming the fourth Korean LPGA Tour member in the last four years to win an LPGA event as a non-member.

Ko, 22, held off two South Korean superstars with huge followings in front of what the LPGA reported were record crowds. She closed with a 4-under-par 68 to defeat Rolex world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park (68) by two shots and No. 7 In Gee Chun (69) by three at the Sky 72 Ocean Course in Incheon.

“I have been quite nervous, starting yesterday,” Ko said through a translator. “After the final putt, I was kind of overwhelmed with emotion.”

It’s the 14th victory by a South Korean in 28 LPGA events this year, one shy of the country’s best win total in a single season. There are five LPGA events left this season.

Ko, a nine-time KLPGA Tour winner, has the option of taking up membership on the American-based LPGA tour this year and next year, or deferring membership until the start of next year.

“I haven't really given it much thought, because I hadn't imagined I would be given the opportunity,” Ko said. “I haven't really considered my options when it comes to the LPGA yet. There is another major event in the KLPGA that starts next week, so my mind was more on that.”

Ko, who has won three events in Korea in the last three months, will meet with her team to discuss her options.


Full-field scores from the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship


“I can’t give you a response on what I plan to do,” she said. “Because I’m a KLPGA player, I should focus on the remaining season of the KLPGA. As for whether I am joining the LPGA, that’s not a decision I can make on my own. I would have to discuss that with my parents, my team, on what’s the best way forward.”

Ko opened with bogeys at two of the first three holes before taking charge with birdies at four of the last five holes on the front nine. She said the galleries were overwhelmingly behind Park and Chun, who have two of the largest fan clubs in Korean golf.

“In the final grouping, I was able to really realize just how many fans In Gee and Sung Hyun have,” Ko said. “When we were talking from hole to hole, the gallery would be cheering for them. I couldn’t really hear my name. That was a bit disappointing, slightly.”

Ko, who cited her Christian faith as having helped her, appeared to show some nervousness with those early bogeys, but she shook it off quickly.

“It was a first for me to play in front of such a large crowd,” she said. “I think that is also going to be an experience that can help me grow further as a player.”

Ko had an experienced guide helping her navigate through the huge crowds, with Dean Herden as her caddie. Herden, an Australian, was on Chun’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open two years ago. He also was on So Yeon Ryu’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2011 and on Jiyai Shin’s bag when she won the Women’s British Open in 2008.

Herden, Ko said, steadied her after the rough start.

“After I made the two bogeys, I had a really long chat with Dean, about why I was so nervous,” Ko said. “I realized I had no reason to be nervous. I was actually putting a lot of pressure on myself. After that, Dean was there. He kept reminding me that being nervous was quite natural, that I needed to accept those nerves. I think I kept reminding myself of that.”

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”