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So Yeon Ryu wins Korean Women's Open, donates the prize money to COVID-19 relief

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Chung Sung-Jun

In her first start since February, So Yeon Ryu took the title Korean Women's Open on Sunday.

A memorable moment deserved a memorable gesture. That’s at least how So Yeon Ryu approached her one-stroke victory over Hyo Joo Kim on Sunday at the Korean Women’s Open, one of the flagship events on the Korean LPGA Tour.

In her first start since February due to the long break in competition in her home country and on the LPGA Tour from the coronavirus, Ryu shot a closing even-par 72 to take the title at the Bears Best Cheong Na Golf Club in Incheon. Shortly afterward, the soon-to-be 30-year-old (her birthday is June 29) announced that she was donating the entire first-place prize of 250 million won ($206,000) to COVID-19 relief funds.

“I thought of donating since last night,” Ryu said. “Before the awards ceremony, I called my mom. I told her that I’m going to make the announcement so don’t get too surprised. She was just as happy I was. Since this tournament has a lot of meaning to me and I thought that I may be able to play better if I had a positive goal, I came up with it last night.”

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A two-time LPGA major champion and former World No. 1, Ryu had never claimed the title in one of her country’s most prestigious events. That said, national championships are something she has experience in winning. She started her LPGA career with a victory in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, then added the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in 2014, the World Ladies Championship on the Ladies European Tour in 2015 and the Japan Women’s Open Golf Championship in 2018.

This win, however, seemed a long time coming. Despite earning 19 titles around the world, Ryu had seen her world ranking fall to No. 18 having not had a victory since the Meijer LPGA Classic in June 2018. The last time she won a KLPGA event was 2015.

“Since it’s been a while since I competed in a tournament, I did want to win,” Ryu said. “But rather than being greedy, I just told myself to do my job. I was glad that I didn’t lose my focus until the end.”