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  • Alistair Tait

Kudos all round to Korean golf

Those in charge of national golf associations should probably suspend all training programmes for elite amateur golfers. Just send performance directors to Korea to find out what the country’s women golfers are drinking. They’ll produce future major champions no problem if they can bottle a fraction of it.

Who’d have thought Korean women would so utterly dominate women’s golf when Se Ri Pak (above) burst on the scene in 1998? Not many.

Three Koreans won women’s major championships of the four held this year. Germany’s Sophia Popov broke up the perfect four of kind by winning the Women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. A Lim Kim’s fantastic U.S. Women’s Open victory was the 10th Korean victory in the last 16 U.S. Women’s Opens.

How’s that for Korean dominance?

Including the 1998 McDonalds LPGA Championship, Korean golfers have won 34 of the 98 women’s majors held. That’s a 35% success rate. Pak has five of those wins.

It’s no stretch to say the 43-year-old blazed a trail for Korean women. She inspired younger Koreans to follow in her footsteps with that breakout 1998 season when she also won the U.S. Women’s Open.

Korean dominance is even stronger when you look at the country’s performance from the second Korean major winner. Grace Park achieved that feat in 2004 with victory in the Kraft Nabisco. Including that championship, 30 of the past 75 women’s majors have been won by Korean golfers. That’s a 40% win streak before you reach for your abacus.

Americans dominate the all-time women’s major wins for obvious reasons. Yet as strong as American women’s golf is, it doesn’t come close to recent Korean success. Those of the red, white and blue have won 23 of 98 women’s majors since Pak’s first of five victories, a 23% success rate. Since Park’s 2004 Kraft Nabisco victory, Americans have won 15 of the 75 majors staged, or 20%.

Just two English golfers and one Scot have won majors since Pak burst on the scene. Karen Stupples and Georgia Hall won the 2004 and 2018 Women’s Open, while Catriona Matthew remains the only Scot to win a women’s major with her incredible 2009 Women’s Open win at Royal Lytham.

Wait a minute, didn’t this stick and ball game begin in the British Isles? Shouldn’t British golfers be the ones dominating, or at least contending for majors on a regular basis?

A look at the Rolex Women’s Rankings shows the top three women in the world pledge allegiance to the Korean flag, with U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Jin Young Ko leading the way. There are five Koreans in the top 10, nine in the top 20 and 19 in the top 50.

Strangely enough, Korea’s dominance of the professional game is not matched in amateur golf. You have to go to 20th on the World Amateur Golf ranking to find the top Korean, Ye Won Lee. Bang Shin Sil is next at 47th. They are the only two in the top 50. There are three in the top 100, and just eight in the top 200.

That’s perhaps not surprising: no Korean woman has ever held the number one position on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. They seem to save their best golf until they get to the professional ranks, and then take over.

I’m not sure a definitive study has ever been done on why Korea so utterly dominates women’s golf. Maybe it’s about time we found out because whatever those fostering young talent are doing, they’re doing it extremely well.

Kudos all round to Korean golf.

#JustSaying: “Se Ri is not going to have any problem whatsoever out here.” JoAnne Carner after playing with Pak in the first two rounds of the 1998 LPGA Championship.


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