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Ko Jin-young swings into form during debut

Mar 09,2018
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Ko Jin-young [YONHAP]
Korean LPGA rookie Ko Jin-young would be the first to tell you that she herself is quite surprised by the start of her debut season.

The 2016 Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Player of the Year may just win the same award on the U.S. tour this year, after picking up a victory and two other top-10 finishes in her first three tournaments as an official LPGA member.

Ko earned her LPGA eligibility by winning the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on home soil last October as a nonmember. And the 22-year-old has proven so far that she certainly has the game to compete on the biggest women’s golf tour in the world.

Ko is leading the LPGA in money, Player of the Year points and Rookie of the Year points. Ko is also currently leading the tour in driving accuracy and greens in regulation.

After playing three straight weeks in three different countries - Australia, Thailand and Singapore - Ko returned home this week for a breather. In interviews held separately over the phone and via email, Ko said she couldn’t have asked for a better start to her rookie season.

“I never expected such great results,” Ko said. “I think I’ve been able to play so well because of support from Korean fans on the road.”

Ko had been among the top players in the KLPGA and took her time last fall before deciding to take her talent on the U.S. tour. She said at the time that she was hesitant in the beginning because she didn’t feel she was ready.

But once she joined the LPGA Tour, Ko hit the ground running. In February, she won her very first tournament, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, to become the first LPGA player in 67 years to win in her official debut. She followed that up by tying for seventh at Honda LPGA Thailand and tying for sixth at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.

“I am trying to have as much fun as I can,” Ko said. “I decided to move to the U.S. tour because I didn’t want to have any regrets, regardless of my performances on the field.”

Ko, world No. 18, said she is particularly enjoying competing against the world’s best female golfers and that she has been feeding off the energy from her Korean fans at her three tournaments so far.

“I’ve had so many Korean fans supporting me and that has made me feel proud to be Korean,” Ko added.

She said she worked hard on her short game over the winter and also tried to improve her conditioning so that she could withstand the rigors of the 33-tournament season.

The first four tournaments of the year so far have been played outside the United States, and after a tour-wide break this week, the season will resume in Arizona with the Bank of Hope Founders Cup next week. It’s the first of 16 straight events across the nation, with stops in California, Hawaii, Texas, Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, New Jersey, Arkansas and Ohio, among others.

“Looking at the travel routes, I know it’s definitely not going to be an easy stretch,” Ko said. “I just have to try hard to stay in shape.”

Ko said she has had great support from her veteran Australian caddie, Dean Herden, who previously carried the bags for Korean major champions like Shin Ji-yai, Ryu So-yeon, Kim Hyo-joo and Chun In-gee.

“I am also grateful that Korean players who have been on the tour a long time have been really kind to me,” Ko added. “My goal is to be a consistent player who ranks among the top 20 week in and week out. I will try to enjoy each and every round and feel thankful for my opportunity, and not worry about results.”

Yonhap