South Koreans 'sad' and 'disappointed' at their performance, but looking ahead to a home game in 2025
South Korea's Hye Jin Choi (left) and In Gee Chun look on from the eighth green during Day 3 of the Hanwha LifePlus International Crown at TPC Harding Park.
SAN FRANCISCO — South Korea’s In Gee Chun stared down the first tee at TPC Harding Park ahead of her Saturday match as “Party Rock Anthem” blared by LMFAO. Next to her, in the Hanwha LifePlus VIP section, company executives and invitees danced and waved foam fingers as their home country stepped to the tee.
As the lyrics “everybody just have a good time” blasted on the speakers, it was the opposite of team South Korea’s week at the International Crown. They entered the final day with zero points, joining team England as the only teams blanked through the first two days of team match play. In how challenging the week had been for the South Koreans, Chun's birdie on the first hole earned the team its first lead of the week. They finished with 2 points with two wins Saturday.
“Sad,” Jin Young Ko said of her feelings of not having an opportunity to play Sunday.
“I know I feel sad and a little disappointed we can't show our game anymore tomorrow, but I believe our Korean players, they're all strong,” Chun added.
Part of the reason for South Korea not advancing to the final day for the first time in International Crown history was the length of the course. The 6,550-yard Harding Park setup proved too tricky for the South Koreans, who are mostly short off the tee. No one on the team is in the top 60 of driving distance, with Hye-Jin Choi (63), Ko (88), Hyo Joo Kim (149) and Chun (154) ranking as one of the shortest driving teams in the field.
While on its face, 6,550 yards is on par with other LPGA course distances, the cold San Francisco temperatures and the gusting winds made it a trying setup.
“They really tricked the course up the first two days,” Dean Herden, Chun’s caddie, said. “I felt they probably could have [shortened the length] for the smoothness of the event. I think I just felt that the course was only suited for a certain amount of players.”
The weather also impacted Chun. She's battled neck spasms due to a lower disc issue, which accumulated throughout her long professional career. That popped up at Harding Park this week, where lower back pain translates into neck spasms. With a longer course, Chun consistently had longer clubs in her hand. The cold weather made it harder for her to compress her long clubs.
However, Chun did not use the injury as an excuse for the team's performance. According to Herden, she plans to take four weeks off to recover and wouldn’t have played this week if not for the opportunity to represent her country.
Rolex Women’s World Rankings No. 3 Ko came alive Saturday, birdieing the second and third to take a 1-up lead. They held the advantage the rest of the way, winning, 3 and 2, with numerous roars from the most prominent fan groups watching Team Korea. Unfortunately for the defending champions, the Saturday sweep was too little, too late.
“I know we charged late, but we really wanted to win this game because, yeah, everybody knows we had a really important game.” Ko said.
Ko did not feel like there was more pressure this week with Hanwha, a South Korean-based insurance company, becoming the event's title sponsor. Instead, they embraced that they had the most fans the whole week following their groups, vocally supporting their favorite team even without the showing they would have liked.
Instead, they'll have to wait for 2025, with plans for the event to head to South Korea, for their next opportunity.
“We were really thankful Korean sponsors got this event, so we really want to play really well because yeah, Korean sponsors and lots of Korean fans out there,” Ko said. “But yeah, it doesn't work, so maybe 2025 we have one more chance to get back [the] crown. We'll see.”