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Golfer Lee Seong-yeoun proves height isn’t everything

Apr 26,2019
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Lee Seong-yeoun poses for a photo at Namsuwon Country Club in Gyeonggi on Tuesday. [WOO SANG-JO]
Standing only at 1.60 meters (5 foot 3 inches), Lee Seong-yeoun may not seem like she has the best physique for a female golfer, but she could be the next long hitter on the KLPGA Tour.

Lee, a rookie on the KLPGA Tour this season, has recently picked up her first career win on the Tour at the Nexen Saint Nine Masters 2019 at Gaya Country Club in Gimhae. In addition to her first win, Lee also ended up in the spotlight for how straight and far she is able to hit the ball.

“When I went home after the win, there was a replay of the tournament on the golf channel,” Lee said. “That’s when I actually realized that I won. I may have gotten too excited that night that I had trouble falling asleep.”

This season, the 20-year-old is ranked second in average driving distance at 257.6 yards. Kim A-ram leads the category at 268 yards.

“No matter what I do, I can’t beat A-ram,” Lee said. “But considering my size, I’m proud of being able to hit it this far.”

As part of her success in becoming a long hitter, she credited weight training.

“Since 10th grade in high school, I’ve spent two to three hours a day in weight training,” Lee said. “Thanks to that, I have a stronger lower body and thicker forearms. When I first started weight training, I cried a lot. But as time went my, I felt a sense of accomplishment. That training allowed me to hit it farther since 11th grade, and I gained confidence.”

During the final round of the Nexen Saint Nine Masters 2019, Lee’s tee shot on the par-5 16th was beyond impressive, as she hit it as far as 279 yards. It also came as a surprise to Lee.

“On the 16th hole on the final day of the tournament, it went so far that I was even surprised by the distance,” Lee said.

Lee started playing golf in the third grade with her parents but it wasn’t until the seventh grade that she actually started playing competitive golf. In 2014, when she was 15, Lee proved her potential in the sport by wining the junior championships in Korea.

Although she was a solid player in her junior career, her professional career has been a completely different story.

Only a year after joining the Jump Tour, the third tier of the KLPGA Tour, in 2016, Lee quickly made her way up to the Dream Tour, the second tier, in 2017 and won two tournaments. Then in June that year, she had her first hole-in-one as a pro.

Despite her achievement, Lee wasn’t able to make the jump up to the top division as she finished seventh on the money ranking by the end of the season. Only the top six players from the Dream Tour receive full-time status in the top division for the following season.

Lee made her attempt to advance to the top division by competing at the qualifying tournament in both 2016 and 2017, but came up short.

“After I missed the seed in 2017, I thought about quitting golf,” Lee said. “Since I couldn’t get through the last stage to play on the top Tour, I was getting frustrated. But at those times, my coach encouraged me by saying ‘I believe in you.’”

Throughout that time, Lee didn’t forget to thank the support of her mother. With the help of her mother and her coach, Lee won the money list on the Dream Tour last year and finally achieved her dream of advancing to the KLPGA Tour.

“Once I got to the top tier, I noticed that there is a lot of gallery,” Lee said. “I’m trying to enjoy golf by continuously reminding myself of the toughest time of my career.”

Since middle school, Lee has been writing a training log every day. In the front of her diary, it says, “live for today, not for tomorrow.” She explained that it’s written to remind her that she should focus on the present for glory in her future.

Along with Lee, this season, there are a lot more notable rookies on the KLPGA Tour. Although Lee is ranked second in rookie points, she still believes that she has a long way to go.

“Just because I won a tournament, it doesn’t mean that my goal has changed. This year, my goal is to have five top-10 finishes.”

BY KIM JI-HAN [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]