It’s being billed as the biggest rookie battle on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf (KLPGA) Tour, but the players themselves don’t seem too concerned about the title race. When Kim Min-byul (19, Hite Jinro), Hwang Yoo-min (20, Lotte), and Bang Shin-sil (19, KB Financial Group) met for an official practice round at Finks GC (Par 72) in Seogwipo, Jeju Island on Friday, one day before the start of the SK networks-Seoul Economic Ladies Classic, they all had one thing on their minds: winning. 굿모닝토토
Despite their rivalry throughout the season, the three players showed off their unwavering friendship. On the day, Kim Min-byul and Bang Shin-sil chatted during their practice rounds in the same group, and they also hugged and joked with Hwang Yoo-min, who was in a different group, in the teeing area. When asked if their relationship became awkward during the spotlight of the Rookie of the Year competition, Hwang Yoo-min laughed and said, “There’s nothing like that,” adding, “We’ve always been friends with a lot of fun and laughter.”
The focus of the three players was also on winning the title rather than competing for the Rookie of the Year title, and Kim Min-byul was the one who wanted to win the title the most. “My original goal was to win the first title, so I have a lot of desire to win,” said Kim, who leads the Rookie of the Year points (2654) but has yet to win a title, unlike Hwang Yoo-min (2434) and Bang Shin-sil (2039).
With eleven top-10 finishes, including three runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes, Kim has been considered a favorite to win each tournament, but has always been unable to get over the final hurdle, and if he can achieve his dream of a “first win” at this event, he will be able to cross the ninth ridge of the Rookie of the Year award. The winner of the Seogyeong Classic has 270 Rookie of the Year points, so even if Hwang Yoo-min finishes second (140 points), the gap between the two players will be 350 points. An upset would be even more difficult, as there are 580 points up for grabs if she wins the remaining two events.
Hwang Yoo-min, Kim Min-byul’s biggest competitor, is also determined to focus more on her goal of winning the title rather than getting caught up in the title race. “My goal for the rest of the season is to win one more title,” she said, referring to her maiden victory at the Daewoo Women’s MBN Women’s Open in July.
Bang Shin-shil, who is far behind in the race for the Rookie of the Year title, also said, “I’m not thinking about the Rookie of the Year,” adding, “If I get the chance, I’d like to win my third title of the season.” He was the first of the three players to win at the E1 Charity Open in May this year and made it two wins in a row at the Dongbu E&C-Korea Land Trust Championship this month.