Top golfers jet off to Singapore for first event of the 2023 KLPGA season
The Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open will open the 2023 KLPGA season as it tees off Friday and continues to Sunday at Tanah Merah Country Club in Singapore.
With 102 contenders teeing off Friday, Thai LPGA golfer Atthaya Thitikul is the one to watch as she tries her hand at her very first KLPGA tournament.
Thitikul heads to the Singapore Women’s Open after a successful 2022 season when she reached world No. 1 for the first time in her career. At age 19, Thithikul became the second-youngest female golfer to reach the top spot. Lydia Ko, who became No. 1 at 17-years-old, is the youngest.
Thitikul was able to stay at the top for two weeks before Nelly Korda of the United States passed her on Nov. 14. Korda is now No. 2 and Ko took No. 1 after winning the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
“I know it was a really great year for me,” said Thitikul on Tuesday.
“A lot of good things happen this year. If I can do it, then it would be great but if not, I’m sure it’s still going to be a great event for me.”
Thitikul heads to Singapore as world No. 3, behind Korda and Ko with an eye on her first-ever title on the KLPGA Tour.
“We usually see a lot of great Korean players on the LPGA Tour,” said Thitikul.
“So it’s without a doubt that the KLPGA Tour is a very strong and competitive circuit as well. The KLPGA Tour comprises many talented players there. If you want to finish on top then you have to play really solid golf all week to stand a chance.”
Alongside Thitikul, LPGA golfer Choi Hye-jin will compete after a great rookie season.
Choi only joined the LPGA Tour this year after finishing tied for eighth in the LPGA Q-Series last December, joining An Na-rin and Hong Ye-eun in qualifying for the Tour.
Choi has not missed a single cut in her 27 competitions this season, despite withdrawing from The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America in September. She has 10 top-10 finishes including a third-place finish at the U.S. Women’s Open this June and another third-place finish at the Lotte Championship in April.
Her best result was finishing second at the CP Women’s Open.
“I think I’ll have fun playing this week as it has almost been a whole year since I last played a KLPGA event,” said Choi.
“I look forward to meeting my fellow KLPGA golfers. I think as for the tournament, how well I adapt is going to be important. It’s going to be my first time playing on the course, so I think adapting well to the grass and green is going to be the most important. I also want to get used to it quickly and aim for a win.”
Two veteran Korean golfers who play predominantly on the JLPGA Tour, Jeon Mi-jeong and Shin Ji-yai, will join the field as well.
Before competing on the JLPGA, Shin was one of the early golfers to pave the way for Korean golf.
Debuting professionally on the KLPGA Tour in 2006, Shin has 21 KLPGA titles, 26 JLPGA titles and 11 LPGA titles to her name.
She still holds a record nine wins in a single season on the KLPGA Tour, a feat she achieved just two years after her debut.
In her third year as a professional golfer, she won all three KLPGA majors in the 2008 season then went on to add three LPGA titles that year as an invited player at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, Mizuno Classic and ADT Championship.
Shin debuted on the LPGA Tour in 2009, winning three titles that year to win Rookie of the Year and top the money standings.
She started spending more time on the Japan Tour from 2014 and her latest win was in 2021 at the Daito Kentaku Eheyanet Ladies. Shin has won the TOTO Japan Classic twice as an LPGA event, in 2008 and 2010, as well as picking up the title when it was a JLPGA-only event in 2020.
“It’s been two years and four months since I played on the KLPGA Tour,” said Shin.
“So I can’t wait to see Korean fans in Singapore and to meet young golfers on the Tour. I think I need to keep a close watch on my physical form, especially because the weather is so unpredictable. I want to do the best for my fans.”
For KLPGA favorite Park Min-ji, the Singapore Women’s Open could be the chance to test out her skills abroad as she had said at the end of the 2022 season that she has her sights set on playing on a bigger stage.
Park played 47 events over the last two years, winning 12 titles. Mathematically, she has won one title in every four tournaments and is now No. 14 in the world rankings. She is the fourth-highest ranked Korean, following LPGA golfers No. 5 Ko Jin-young, No. 7 Chun In-gee and No. 9 Kim Hyo-joo.
After winning the 2021 KLPGA Player of the Year award, Park finished her 2022 season with a bang winning the last tournament, the SK Shieldus-SK Telecom Championship 2022, and topping the KLPGA money standings.
In addition to winning six titles last year, Park was able to rack up a total of six wins this year as well, starting with a win at the NH Investment & Securities Ladies Championship in May, then going on to win the Celltrion Queens Masters and BC Card Hankyung Ladies Cup 2022 in June, the KB Financial Group STAR Championship in September, the 22nd Hite Jinro Championship in October and the last event of the season on Nov. 13.
“I had a busy schedule after the end of the season so I didn’t have too much time to prepare,” said Park.
“I don’t want to expect too much. But I know that fans have long-awaited this event so I will do my best.”
2022 KLPGA Player of the Year Kim Su-ji is also throwing her hat into the ring. Kim had a fruitful season after making it to the top 10 in 17 events while winning back-to-back tournaments in September, when she won the Hana Financial Group Championship and the OK Financial Group Se Ri Pak Invitational.
“I had a good 2022 season so I am looking forward to the first tournament of the 2023 season,” said Kim.
“It’s been a long time since I competed overseas so I am excited to be here. I think I still maintain that shot form and physical condition of the 2022 season so I hope to put on a good performance this week.”
The Singapore Women’s Open is a three-day event that starts Friday and finishes Sunday.
Shin will tee off alongside Lim Hee-jeong and Cho A-yean at 8 a.m., Kim will tee off alongside Park Hyun-kyung and LPGA golfer Yealimi Noh at 8:10 a.m. and Park will tee off alongside Choi and Thitikul at 12:20 p.m.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]