The crowd at the CJ Nine Bridges Classic went wild as the fourth straight Korean to win this event kissed the trophy. Jee Young Lee, a member of the Korean LPGA, is only nineteen and now claims exempt status on the LPGA tour.
Although she finished 1-over par for the day, it was enough to hold off her nearest competitors, Mi Hyun Kim and Carin Koch, by three strokes to win in her hometown. Lee was one of only seven golfers to complete the tournament under par with a 5-under par.
Jee Young Lee received a beautiful piece of crystal, a check for over $200,000 and traditional Korean garb which she donned for the cameras. The excited teenager stated, "I didn't anticipate to win this event so I'm not ready for the LPGA, but I am ready to go and play around the world. I am very happy that I will get exempt status for the future on the LPGA and I will do my best."
Lee was handed her invite as one of twelve Korean golfers who received enough qualifying points through the KLPGA. Until the end of the tournament Lee held out hopes of winning but didn't celebrate until the final putt dropped. "I never thought that I would win this tournament until the third shot of the 18th hole. I was nervous, so I didn't know if I was going to make a mistake or not. I didn't want to think that I won until it was over."
With only a single bogey to her scorecard on the final round Mi Hyun Kim felt the wind had something to do with missing her birdie opportunities. It was so windy that her ball actually moved on the green but Kim didn't receive a penalty for it because she had not yet reached the ball. Kim got even more nervous afterwards stating, "after that I started getting frustrated and scared of putting." That particular way of thinking most likely led to her defeat.
Sharing second place with Kim was Swede Carin Koch. The cold and wind plagued Koch early on in the final round as she double-bogeyed the second hole. After adjusting to the temperature Carin managed five birdies but finished with a disappointing bogey. Unfortunately Carin was unaware that Lee was also having her difficulties. The winner, who posted bogeys on 15, 16 and 17 allowed the other players the ability to play "catch-up" but none grabbed the opportunity.
"The last time I saw the leaderboards she was up by a lot and doing very well," said Koch. "I was just concentrating on trying to get in and finishing." Had Carin looked up at the leaderboard for a moment she might have made a charge and possibly been in a playoff with the South Korean. Carin shared second place with Annika Sorenstam at last year's tournament.
Although Sorenstam (70) played well in final round action at 2-under par, she was no threat to Lee. Annika had three birdies during the day but capped off her round with a bogey at 18. "I made a few birdies, but it was tough because the wind is blowing and the cold temperatures and some rain. It is just a very difficult place to play golf."
Sorenstam finished her first two rounds with 75's attributing it to the weather and her many layers of clothing that she had to wear in order to keep herself warm.
Last year's winner, Grace Park, tied for sixth place. Her two-under par 70 was a mix of four birdies and two bogeys, the final bogey sealing her fate at the 18th hole.
Paula Creamer efforts were in vain during these past three days. In the final round Creamer managed to make seven bogeys but not one birdie. Starting the tournament with a 73 put her in contention and her second round 70 elevated her to a possible rally but her final round 79 dashed all hopes of her winning back-to-back tournaments. The "Pink Panther" could only climb as far up as twenty-third place, tied with four other golfers. Last week Creamer confidently secured her fourth win at the Masters GC Tournament in Japan.
Natalie Gulbis tied for 55th position with Corning Classic winner Jimin Kang. Let's hope that Gulbis' three days of scoring in the mid to high 70's (77, 76 and 78 respectively) is only a tuneup for the upcoming Mizuno Classic in Japan.
Pos Player Today Tot R1 R2 R3 1 Jee Young Lee +1 -5 65 73 73 T2 Carin Koch -1 -2 67 76 71 T2 Mi Hyun Kim +1 -2 70 71 73 T4 Hee Young Park +1 -1 69 73 73 T4 Jeong Jang +2 -1 67 74 74 T6 Grace Park -2 E 73 73 70 T6 Rachel Hetherington E E 71 73 72 T8 Janice Moodie -3 +1 72 76 69 T8 Sophie Gustafson -3 +4 70 78 69 T10 Beth Bader -2 +2 76 72 70 T10 Il Mi Chung -1 +2 73 74 71 T10 Shi Hyun Ahn E +2 73 73 72 T10 Hee-Won Han +1 +2 75 70 73
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