The 30th event of the 2023 season, the SK networks-Seoul Economic Ladies Classic (total prize fund of 800 million won, winner’s purse of 144 million won), will kick off from Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29 at Pinx Golf Club (Par 72 / 6,727 yards, qualifying, 6,748 yards) in Seogwipo City, Jeju Island.
The tournament, now in its 16th year, has a long and storied history as a partnership between SK Pinx, Jeju’s premier premium resort, home to Korea’s first World Top 100 golf club and the architecturally stunning Podo Hotel, and The Seoul Economic Times, Korea’s first economic newspaper to lead the way in media innovation.
The tournament has become a signature event on the KLPGA Tour, and the list of past champions is impressive. In addition to the inaugural champion, Shin Ji-ae (35, ThreeBond), and the tournament’s only multiple winner, Kim Ha-neul (35), the tournament has produced some of the leading figures in Korean women’s golf, including Lee Jeong-5 (35, Bumin Hospital), Heo Yoon-kyung (33), Lee Jung-min (31, Q CELLS), Lee Seung-hyun (32), Choi Hye-jin (24, Lotte), and Jang Ha-na (31). In addition, first-time winners such as Kim Song-yeon (26) and Park Eun-mae (27, Doosan E&C) were born, and Kim Hye-yoon (34) lifted the trophy for the first time in four years, giving golf fans an inspiring story.
This year, 102 players representing the KLPGA Tour have entered the tournament with a total prize pool of 800 million won, and Lee So Mi (24, Daebang E&C) will defend her title as the defending champion. After winning last year’s event by the fewest strokes (18-under-par 270), Lee was crowned the ‘Queen of Jeju’ for the second consecutive week as she lifted the trophy on the island.
“It was great when I won the title last year for two weeks in a row, but it’s a little bit of a pressure to come in as the defending champion,” Lee said, “but every tournament is important, so I’m going to play the way I know how to play and not be conscious of the fact that I’m defending my title.”
“I’m not going to try to hit it low just because it’s windy. I will choose my shot composition according to the situation,” he said, adding, “I am not satisfied with my recent performance, but I want to finish the remaining tournaments with better results.”
Im Jin-hee (25, Ankang E&C), who joined the ranks of the three-time winners by becoming the inaugural champion at the Sangsangin-Korea Economic TV Open 2023 last week, will be aiming for a second straight victory on her home island of Jeju.
“I’ve been playing well this season with my wedges and putts,” said Lim, who has emerged as a force on the KLPGA Tour, “and I think I’ll have an easier time in this tournament if I pay a little more attention to my tee shot accuracy.”
“Every time I play a tournament in my hometown of Jeju Island, there are ups and downs, so I’m always half excited and half worried,” she said, “but I’m confident that I’ll be able to showcase my play in this tournament as I’ve already won in Jeju Island this season.”
Lee Ye-won (20, KB Financial Group), who leads the Women’s World Tour in points, money earned and stroke average, will be looking to solidify her title on Jeju Island, where she has picked up two of her three wins this season. She will also be looking to break Min-ji Park’s record for most winnings in a season with 1.5217 billion won. A win here would close the gap to 56.33 million won.
“I’ve always loved Jeju Island, so I’ve always been able to play with a relaxed mindset whenever I’ve played here,” said Lee, “and I’m looking forward to taking the good momentum from my two wins and playing my best.”
“The greens are difficult on this course, so I’m going to pay more attention to my second shot and my putts,” she said. “I want to finish the season well by focusing on my play instead of worrying about the title.”
With the exception of Park Min-ji (25, NH Investment & Securities), all of the top players on the money list and the Women’s Grand Prize points are expected to compete in a spectacular shot battle. Park Ji-young (27, Korea Land Trust) with three wins, Lee Da-yeon (26, Mediheal) with two wins, and “Autumn Queen” Kim Soo-ji (27, Dongbu E&C) will be aiming for another trophy, while Kim Min-byul (19, Hite Jinro), who has yet to win this season but is ranked fifth on the money list based on her consistent performances, and Park Hyun-kyung (23, Korea Land Trust), who is ranked seventh on the money list, will be looking to win the Masu-girl title.
Lee Seung-yeon (25) and Choi Yerim (24), who are sponsored by the organizers, will be looking to win the main sponsor event, while defending champions Lee Jung-min and Jang Ha-na will also go head-to-head in a shootout to recreate their glory. Han Hyo-ri (15), who won the secondary division of the KLPGA-Samcheon-ri Together Dreamers Tournament 2023, and amateur powerhouse Ahn Yeon-ju (16) will also be in action in front of golf fans.
As the season comes to a close, the competition for various titles is fierce. In the Women’s Grand Prize points category, Lee leads the way with 609 points, followed by Im Jin-hee with 521 and Kim Soo-ji with 503. The multi-winner race is also a close one, with Lee, Park Ji-young, and Im Jin-hee all tied for third place with three wins apiece.
The Rookie of the Year competition is also interesting. Kim Min-byul leads the way with 2,654 points, while second-place Hwang Yoo-min (20, Lotte) is within 220 points of the top spot, and Bang Shin-sil (19, KB Financial Group), who has two wins, is determined to keep up the chase until the end of the season. 굿모닝토토 도메인
It will be interesting to see if another first-time winner can be crowned in the 2023 season. There have been 10 first-time winners this season, tying the record set in 2017. History will be made if a Cinderella is born this time around.
In the meantime, the organizers have prepared a generous special prize for the players. First of all, the winner will receive a Tempur mattress and motion bed worth 10 million won, and the runner-up will receive a Seragem Master V7 worth 5.4 million won. The player who breaks the course record of 9-under-par 63 set by Lee Jeong-six (27, Daebang Construction) in the 2017 season will receive a two-night stay at Podo Hotel.
Hole-in-one prizes are also plentiful. The first hole-in-one on the 5th hole will be awarded a Frederique Constant New Highlife Perpetual Calendar watch worth 42 million won. The first player to score a hole-in-one on the 14th hole will receive a set of VANGOLF irons worth KRW 10 million, and the first player to score a hole-in-one on the 17th hole will receive a Kia Motors EV9 car worth KRW 70 million. In particular, expectations are high for the first hole-in-one in four years since Lim Hee-jung (23, Doosan E&C) recorded a hole-in-one in the second round of the 2019 season.
The tournament, which is co-sponsored by SK Pins and the Seoul Economy and organized by KLPGT, will be broadcast live every round on SBS Golf, the host broadcaster, as well as NAVER, LG U+, and Spoki.