South Korean Star wins her first major championship
At the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the final group on Sunday included both Sei Young Kim and Inbee Park. At that time however, Park started the final day with a 2-stroke lead over Kim. Kim went on a birdie streak from holes 5 to 8, pulling herself within 1 – stroke of Park. But from that point forward, it was Inbee Park who put her foot down on the gas and made 3-birdies from holes 9 to 18, to go along with all of her pars. Park finished the day with a 68 and a tournament winning 273 (-19) to capture her third consecutive KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Sei Young Kim finished with a 71 to finish the event at -14 under par.
Flash forward to this Sunday at Aronimink in Newtown, Pennsylvania and the roles were reversed. It was Sei Young Kim nursing a two shot lead over Brooke Henderson and Anna Nordqvist, with Park in 4th spot another stroke back. While the usual Henderson charge never materialized on Sunday, with Nordqvist struggling to keep up, it quickly became a two player contest between friends and foes. Inbee played her role, finishing with a blemish free 65 on the Sunday of a major championship at Aronimink.
Playing in the penultimate group, Park did what she had to do, making a birdie on the very first hole, applying a little early pressure while reminding the leader that she was still there. The margin between her and Kim was now down to 2 strokes. Kim then responded with a birdie of her own on the par 4 – 3rd hole to restore her advantage to three strokes over Park. Inbee birdied again on the par 3 – 5th, to pull back within 2-strokes. Then Sei Young Kim restored her 3-shot advantage with a birdie on the par 4 – 6th hole. Meanwhile, just up ahead, Inbee Park was making another birdie on hole 7 – the margin was back down to 2-strokes.
The players then exchanged birdies yet again – Kim on the par 5 – 9th to regain a 3-stroke lead; Park on the 12th hole to get back to within 2 strokes. Not to be outdone, Kim then seized control of the situation, birdieing holes 13 and 14 to increase her margin to 4-strokes. Then she made birdies on holes 16 and 17 to put the event out of reach.
With 7-birdies and a bogey free day, Sei Young Kim left the scorer’s tent posting a 63, tying the tournament record for the lowest score for a round. That was not the only record feat accomplished. By shooting a 63 on the final round, Kim set a new tournament scoring record with her total score of 266, eclipsing the previous record of 267 (-17) set by Betsy King in 1992 at Bethesda Country Club.
On the day, Hall of Fame player, Inbee Park finished with 5 – birdies and no bogeys either for her round of 65, Park threw everything she had at Sei Young Kim, and Kim did not blink. It truly was one of the finest rounds of golf played in a women’s major in recent years. That was how good Sei Young Kim played as she took her name out of the category of best players to never win a major.
See all of our Tournament Coverage [HERE]
Since coming on tour in 2015, Sei Young Kim has won more golf tournaments than any other South Korean player and indeed, more than any other player in the last five years, with Brooke Henderson next at 9 LPGA wins. The challenge for Kim playing in golf passionate South Korea, was that she was being eclipsed by other South Koreans who had dominant years. In 2015 and 2016, it was Inbee Park, who became a Hall of Fame player in those years, winning 3 consecutive KPMG Women’s PGA Championships along with the first Olympic Gold Medal in golf since the Paris games in 1900.
Next came In Gee Chun, winning the 2015 US Women’s Open and then the 2016 Evian Championship in record fashion. The two major victories for Chun, especially the US Women’s Open were revered by South Korean golf fans. Then it was the co - domination of Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu as both players won major tournaments in 2017 and both Park and Ryu were co-players of the year on the LPGA.
Today’s victory elevated Sei Young Kim to the position of the best South Korean player on tour in the past couple of years and certainly at the present time. It has cemented her status as one of the top South Korean players in professional golf and has provided her with a well deserved moment of satisfaction and reward for her play over the past five years. It also puts her squarely into the discussion for Player of the Year. Already leading the LPGA in a number of important statistical categories such as scoring average, and more, Kim can take the confidence gained from this win through to the US Women’s Open in December and it would be surprising to see her emerge victorious yet again.
Gallery images of the Final Round at the 2020 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
(courtesy of the PGA)