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Ryu revives Korean glory at U.S. Open

It has been an unusually quiet year for Korean women’s golf. In recent years, the leader board at LPGA golf events has been dominated by Korean women: they combined for 22 wins from 2009-2010.

But this year has been disappointing with no title yet for the Koreans until last week. The deadlock was finally broken when Ryu So-yeon claimed the U.S. Women’s Open title on Monday by beating her fellow countrywoman Seo Hee-kyung in a three-hole aggregate playoff at the Broadmoor’s East Course in Colorado Springs.
Ryu So-yeon (left) and Seo Hee-kyung share a laugh on the 16th tee during the start of their playoff round at the U.S. Women’s Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Monday. (AP-Yonhap News)
Ryu So-yeon (left) and Seo Hee-kyung share a laugh on the 16th tee during the start of their playoff round at the U.S. Women’s Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Monday. (AP-Yonhap News)

It was her first major title, and with the victory the 21-year-old became the third-youngest champion in U.S. Open history ― Park In-bee was 19 when she won the title in 2008.

Ryu also became the fifth Korean to win the prestigious U.S. Open title, following in the footsteps of Pak Se-ri (1998), Kim Ju-yun (2005), Park In-bee (2008) and Ji Eun-hee (2009). There were four other Koreans in the top 10 at this year’s U.S. Women’s open, including the 2008 champion Park, who tied for sixth at two-over.

Ryu was one stroke behind the 25-year-old Seo before heavy rain and darkness suspended the fourth round on Sunday.

After the game resumed on Monday, Ryu managed to catch Seo with a dramatic 72nd hole birdie, forcing a three-hole playoff with her KLPGA rival. She then defeated Seo by three shots in the playoff to capture her first LPGA title.

After winning, Ryu said she was proud of her accomplishment, and also gave special thanks to Korean golf legend Pak Se-ri, who was on the green along with fellow Korean golfers pouring champagne on her.

“When I first started golf, Se-ri won the U.S. Open. She is my hero, but now she shows up for me and congratulates me, it’s unbelievable,” Ryu said.

The LPGA Hall of Famer Pak noted that she was proud of the two Korean finalists.

“I’m proud for them to be out there and playing their best, I’m very happy to see it,” she said.

Ku Ok-hee earned the country’s first LPGA victory in 1988, and Park, the mother figure of Korean women’s golf, claimed her first major title at the U.S. Open in 1998.

With Ryu’s victory on Monday, now there are 31 Korean with LPGA victories, with a combined 99 wins so far.

Ryu made her professional debut here in 2008, and has won seven titles so far on the Korean Tour. She participated in the 2011 U.S. Open in hopes of earning a full-time membership on LPGA Tour next year. And with Monday’s victory, she has LPGA status for next year.

“I can trust myself now, and am looking forward to next season,” Ryu said.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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