“I would like the juniors to be more proactive and challenge themselves overseas, because there is so much to be gained.”
Recently, there has been a lull in the number of South Korean players on the U.S. Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour. Kim Hyo-ju won on Sept. 9, but the momentum hasn’t been the same. On Sept. 9 in Hong Kong, I met 28-year-old Jin Young Ko, who held the world No. 1 ranking in women’s golf for the longest time (163 weeks) and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world.
After finishing runner-up at the European Ladies European Tour’s (LET) Aramco Team Series the day before, Ko said, “You would have expected me to win the tournament because I played the first round. But there is no such thing as a ‘deserved win’ in golf. That’s something I’ve realized over the past six years of playing on the LPGA Tour.”
Ko traveled the world last summer. She traveled from the U.S. to France in late July to play in the Evian Championship before returning home in early August to compete in the Jeju Samdasu Masters on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf (KLPGA) Tour. She then traveled to England for the AIG Women’s Open before heading to Canada for the CPKC Women’s Open in late August. “Because I was traveling so much, I didn’t even know where I was at the Jeju Samdasu Masters, and I didn’t even feel the intense summer heat. On the second day, I couldn’t sleep at all due to jet lag, so I ended up withdrawing,” Ko confessed.
Feeling the limits of his physical strength, Ko took a break for over a month after the CPKC Open. “Through this tournament, I realized, ‘I’ve been resting well,’” he said. It was a time when I realized the importance of rest.”
The Aramco Team Series is a series of competitions launched by the LET in partnership with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund (PIF) late last year. It will take place in Singapore, followed by the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. The total prize pool is around $1 million (about $1.35 billion), but the world’s highest-ranked players are paid a modest invitation fee. The money comes from astronomical oil money. The PIF also funds LIV Golf, which was once at odds with the U.S. Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour.
In June, LIV Golf announced its merger with the PGA Tour. At the same time, LIV Golf dropped its rumored entry into women’s golf. “Some members of the LPGA Tour wanted to invest in LIV Golf,” says Ko. “Just like the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour was divided in opinion. There was a group that emphasized reality and a group that respected values. I’ve had a goal of getting into the Hall of Fame since my LPGA Tour debut in 2018. So if there was a new stage, I was like, ‘I’m not going to go,’” she said.
When asked about the future of women’s golf in the world, she said, “It’s unpredictable.” At the opening press conference of the Jeju Samdasu Masters in August, Ko spoke about the reality of women’s golf in Korea. She emphasized that while the KLPGA Tour has evolved and the environment for domestic players has improved, there is still a need to expand overseas.
“After that interview, people told me, ‘It’s not your time to give such advice,’ so I didn’t want to talk about it anymore,” Ko said, adding, “I also thought a lot about the LPGA Tour challenge six years ago. I understand the concerns of domestic players. But I think juniors should consider going overseas at least once.”
Ko, who has 15 career wins on the LPGA Tour, will compete in the LPGA Tour’s BMW Ladies Championship, which begins on Sept. 19 at Seowon Hills Golf Course in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. She won the event in 2021, but withdrew after the third round last year due to a wrist injury.
“When I say to myself, ‘I’m getting weaker, I’m getting weaker,’ I feel really weak, so I’m trying to keep my mind strong,” Ko said, adding, “There are four tournaments left on the LPGA Tour. I want to save my stamina and finish this season well.” 스포츠토토