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Kim Sei-young takes record purse at finale

Season closer sees Korean join exclusive LPGA 10 win club
Nov 26,2019
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Kim Sei-young poses with the trophy after winning the 2019 CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida on Sunday. [GETTY IMAGES/YONHAP]
Kim Sei-young finished her 2019 season by winning the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida on Sunday.

With five birdies and three bogeys, Kim shot two under par, 70, on the final day to win the season finale one shot ahead of Charley Hull of England. Kim, who was the overnight leader with a one-shot lead, got off to a quick start with a birdie on the par-4 second. But a bogey on the par-4 third quickly squared up her round to even. She added two birdies on the par-5 sixth and the par-3 eighth, but a bogey on the par-4 ninth allowed her to shoot one under par in the front nine.

Then, Kim started her second half with a birdie on the par-4 10th. Kim added her third bogey of the day on the par-5 14th. That still allowed her to maintain her lead but also opened up an opportunity for Hull, who finished her round with three straight birdies and tied for the lead with Kim.

It all came down to the final hole. Kim, who wasn’t aware of the score until the last hole, hit her second shot on the green, leaving herself about an 8-meter (26-foot) birdie putt. Rather than forcing the round into a sudden-death playoff, Kim finished the tournament by rolling in an 8-meter long birdie to win the tournament by one.

With a birdie on the last hole, Kim was declared the winner at 18 under par, 270. Since the tournament was established in 2014, Kim was the first Korean golfer to win.

“To be honest, I was only aware of Nelly [Korda]’s position,” Kim was quoted as saying on the LPGA website. “I didn’t know about Charley. I was just trying to two-putt to beat Nelly. I knew it was on a good line, but I didn’t think it was going in. Then I heard the crowd yell.”

With the win, Kim took home the largest prize money in women’s golf history at $1.5 million and picked up her 10th win on the LPGA Tour.

Korean golfers have been dominant on the LPGA Tour for years, but 10 wins is still impressive - Kim is only the fourth Korean golfer to pick up at least 10 victories on the Tour. Before Kim, Pak Se-ri, Park In-bee and Shin Ji-yai also managed the feat. Pak leads the players at 25 wins, while Park has won 19 and Shin has 11.

This win cemented Korean golfers’ domination of the LPGA Tour this season, winning a total of 15 tournaments.

“Just knowing that I won the greatest prize in the history of women’s golf is a great honor,” Kim was quoted as saying.

After a successful career on the Korean Tour, Kim joined the LPGA Tour in 2015, earning her full-time status by finishing tied for fourth at the 2014 LPGA Qualifying Tournament. During her first season on the Tour, Kim won three tournaments to earn the Rookie of the Year award.

Following a successful first year, Kim bagged two additional titles in 2016. Kim’s success on the LPGA Tour allowed her to be chosen as one of the lucky four golfers to represent Korea at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In May 2017, she added another win at the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Match Play in Mexico City. But after that win it took her until July 2018 to pick up another.

Although it took her almost 10 months to bounce back last year, this season proved to be the best one of her career on the LPGA Tour. Kim first picked up a win in May this year, at the LPGA Mediheal Championship. Two months later, she picked up another at the Marathon Classic.

By winning the season finale, she picked up her third, tying her 2015 record. Though she won the same number of tournaments as in her rookie season, Kim’s prize money shot up this year thanks to that huge finale purse.

Following Kim, Ryu So-yeon was the next best finisher among the Korean golfers, tied for ninth. Ryu shot three under par, 69, on the final day to finish at 12 under par, 276.

Rookie of the year Lee Jeong-eun and world No. 1 Ko Jin-young finished tied for 11th at 11 under par, 277.

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]