The Korea Herald


S. Korean Ryu Hae-ran wins LPGA qualifying tournament

By Yonhap

Published : Dec. 12, 2022 - 09:17

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Ryu Hae-ran of South Korea poses with a card bearing her name as a new member of the LPGA Tour for 2023, following her victory at the LPGA Q-Series at Highland Oaks Golf Club in Dothan, Alabama, on last Sunday (the Epson Tour) Ryu Hae-ran of South Korea poses with a card bearing her name as a new member of the LPGA Tour for 2023, following her victory at the LPGA Q-Series at Highland Oaks Golf Club in Dothan, Alabama, on last Sunday (the Epson Tour)

South Korean golfer Ryu Hae-ran has won the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament, earning her membership on the world's top women's tour with a flourish.

Ryu finished at the top of the LPGA Q-Series, an eight-round marathon that wrapped up at Highland Oaks Golf Club in Dothan, Alabama, on Sunday (local time). She shot a combined 29-under 545, beating Bailey Tardy of the United States by two strokes.

Ryu, 21, is the 2020 Korea LPGA Rookie of the Year with five career titles on her home circuit. She also won the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games, one year before turning pro.

Ryu is the second straight South Korean to win the Q-Series, following another former KLPGA star, An Narin.

"Earning this tour card means a lot, especially on the No. 1 tour in the world," Ryu said through an interpreter afterward. "To be the first to finish makes me even prouder. And also to be the second Korean winner in a row."

The Q-Series was conducted over two phases. From the initial field of 110, the top 70 and ties survived the first cut after four rounds. Then the top 45 players and ties after another four rounds received LPGA status for 2023. Those who ranked outside the top 45 but played all eight rounds earned playing status for the second-tier Epson Tour for next year.

Aside from Ryu, Park Kum-kang, who tied for ninth at 20-under, was the only other South Korean to earn full LPGA membership for 2023.

"I'm so happy to finish the Q-Series and happy to get an LPGA Tour card," Park said. "I think I have to adjust for the LPGA Tour, and I'm so happy to go on the LPGA Tour."

Park spent the 2022 season on the Epson Tour, where she finished 19th on the money list thanks to a victory and two other top-10 finishes.

Ryu shot a one-over 73 in her opening round of the Q-Series, which included five bogeys. She then bounced back with three straight rounds in the 60s. Ryu jumped to first place after going bogey-free for a six-under 66 in the seventh round and shot a 68 in the final round to cap off her win.

Ryu had a strong 2022 season in the KLPGA. She finished second in the Player of the Year points standings with 692, 68 points behind the winner, Kim Su-ji, and fourth on the money list with just under 830 million won ($636,370).

Ryu also ranked second in scoring average and tied Kim for the most top-10 finishes with 17. No KLPGA player had more rounds in the 60s than Ryu with 37.

Ryu had announced at the end of October that she would compete in the Q-Series, saying she felt it was the right time in her career to try to take her talent to the LPGA Tour.

Eight South Koreans entered the Q-Series this year and six made the first cut. Jeon Ji-won and Yoon Min-a tied for 49th at nine-under, while Lee Mi-hyang, a two-time LPGA winner, finished one stroke back in a four-way tie for 55th.

Yoon began the final round tied for 31st but played herself out of the top 45 by shooting a four-under 76, with five bogeys against one birdie.

Hong Yae-eun, who had earned her LPGA card by tying for 12th at last year's Q-Series but lost it promptly this year, tied for 63rd at this year's qualifying tournament.

Ryu and Park will be joining a deep pool of South Korean talent on the LPGA Tour. Though South Korea had a down year in 2022, it still has been among the most successful countries in women's golf of late, with a steady stream of major champions and regular tour winners.

South Korea currently boasts three players inside the top 10 in the world rankings: Ko Jin-young (No. 5), Chun In-gee (No. 8) and Kim Hyo-joo (No. 9). Ryu is currently No. 50.

South Korea has had winners of the LPGA Player of the Year awards in four of the past six seasons. Park Sung-hyun and Ryu So-yeon were co-winners in 2017, and Ko Jin-young won twice, in 2019 and 2021, with Kim Sei-young winning hers in 2020.

Also, seven of the nine LPGA Rookie of the Year winners between 2011 and 2019 are from South Korea.

This year, Choi Hye-jin, who finished eighth at last year's Q-Series, finished runner-up to Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand in the Rookie of the Year points race. (Yonhap)