PAJU, South Korea, On the strength of her maiden LPGA victory earlier this month, South Korean Ryu Hae-ran has all but secured the tour’s Rookie of the Year award.
Ryu can now afford to stop worrying about the points race and turn her focus to other things: namely, giving her acceptance speech in English.
Ryu leads Grace Kim of Australia by 244 points, 804 to 560. With four tournaments left after this week’s BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea, Ryu should be able to hang on for the rookie prize.
First-year players earn points based on their finishes, with a victory being worth 150. A win by Kim could make things interesting, but Kim has missed five cuts and recorded just one top-10 finish in 15 tournaments since her breakthrough win in April.
“I understand I have a fairly big lead,” Ryu said after shooting a seven-under 65 on Thursday to begin the BMW Ladies Championship in Paju, northwest of Seoul. “Honestly, my biggest worry is giving the speech in English. So I’ve been working on it really hard.”
Ryu earned her LPGA membership by winning the qualifying tournament last year. The former Korean tour star has so far recorded six top-10s, the biggest one being her victory at Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Oct. 1.
Ryu said she would give herself 80 out of 100 for her rookie season.
“I would have cut 30 points because I’ve missed three cuts, but since I won a tournament, I added 10 points,” Ryu said with a smile.
The outgoing 22-year-old said she had bouts of self-doubt early in the season.
“There were times when I regretted going to the LPGA Tour and thought about returning to Korea,” Ryu said. “I felt I’d built enough playing experience in Korea, but I felt like my career hit a snag early this season. And traveling was really tough at first.”
Ryu said getting the first win out of the way has changed her mindset.
“I no longer have the pressure to win, and so I am much more at ease on the course,” Ryu said. “Before that victory, I didn’t shoot low scores that often. But I’ve been able to post better scores like today.”
Ryu, who came home midseason to work on her swing with her coach, said she plans to play four more tournaments after this week.
“I’d love to win another title this year,” Ryu said. “Everyone out here wants to win. And even if I don’t pick up another victory, I will try to be inside the top 10 as often as I can.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency