Jin Joo Hong, a 23-year-old KLPGA player, birdied three of her first eight holes Sunday and then cruised to a three-shot victory in the KOLON-Hana Bank Championship. Jeong Jang finished second at -8 and 2002 tournament champion Se Ri Pak finished third at -6.
None of Hong’s closest competitors entering Sunday’s play were able to make a run – Karine Icher only managed 72 while Joo Mi Kim came in with 76. Paula Creamer and Jee Young Lee were also only able to post 72s. Jang was five back at the start and got it to -7 with birdies on 6, 7 and 10. Unfortunately for her, Jin Joo was off to just as good a start and did not falter until taking double bogey at 18 when the fat lady was already singing (that was NOT Laura Davies). Pak’s 67 was the round of the day, completing a nice comeback from her opening round 74.
Hong now has a full exemption on the LPGA Tour for 2007 if she chooses to accept it. She was apparantly planning on playing the Japanese Tour next year since her mother lives there – she has a big decision to make now. Here’s hoping she takes the big plunge! Her victory continues the dominance of the Korean players in their home tournament – all five winners in this event (Pak, Shi Hyun Ahn, Grace Park, Jee Young Lee and Hong) are Seoul Sisters, and only four of this week’s Top 15 finishers are NOT Korean. Pretty impressive stuff.
Obviously Jin Joo Hong is this week’s Big Surprise, but I’ll also give shout-outs to Ji-Yai Shin (another KLPGA’er who finished tied for fourth at -5) and amateur Mi Jung Hur (tied for sixth at -4). As for my pre-tournament picks, that’s nine misses in a row. Creamer didn’t win but she and JJ did finish Top 10. Hee-Won Han just missed Top 10 by two shots after finishing with a 74.