Nearly a week has passed since Hank Haney tweeted that 23-year-old Jeongeun Lee6’s victory in the U.S. Womens Open was vindication of his controversial prediction that a Korean would win. Issues of political correctness and public relations aside, the young champion’s name was a reminder that our planet is a big place.
The natural question being, who are the other five golfing Jeongeun Lees who forced the now fifth-ranked female golfer in the world to add a numeral? A plight often associated with prisoners, robots and characters in science fiction novels isn’t so amusing when it becomes a fact of your existence. As if golf isn’t hard enough already.
Reporting credit owed to Golf Digest Korea editor-in-chief Eunjeong Sohn (who I call EJ), who tracked down and translated an article written this week by HoJun Sung in the daily newspaper Joon-Ang Ilbo. Sung sought to answer the question of “the other five” players in the relatively short history of the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, and here’s what he found.
The first Jeongeun Lee (above) is 43 years old, retired, and busy raising has an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter, though still takes time to teach the game to people close to her. She’s one year older than Se Ri Pak, who in 1998 won the U.S. Women as a rookie and sparked a generation of young girls in her country to play.
The second Jeongeun Lee (above) is 42, and played most of her career on the JLPGA Tour in Japan. Her best finish was second-place in the Japan Tour Mizuno Open. Once her clubs were temporarily lost when they were switched with the bag of other Lee. She now works as a teaching pro at the Pyeongtaek Golf Course in the Gyeonggi Province of South Korea.
The third Jeongeun Lee (above) is 34 and played in Japan at the same time as the second. Many episodes of confusion were capped by a particularly frustrating mistake regarding a hotel reservation, and that was when she decided to change her name Jiwoo Lee. Her career highlight is winning the Panasonic Open in Japan. She’s now retired and teaches at Gangnam in Seoul.
The fourth Jeongeun Lee (above) is 32 and competed on the KLPGA Tour as recently 2015. Now married with a one-year-old daughter, she still occasionally tees it for prize money on screen golf tours. (If you’re curious about the high-stakes and burgeoning world of simulator golf tournaments, you can read this February 2019 magazine piece reported on my travels to Korea. This Lee was once contacted to give a lecture, but it turned out event organizers were looking for number five. She’s also grown accustomed to receiving erroneous Facebook congratulations for rounds she didn’t post.
The fifth Jeongeun Lee (above) is 31, has an impressive resume of wins, and placed 34th in the 2019 U.S. Womens Open at Charleston Country Club. She competes mainly on the LPGA Tour. As Bill Fields wrote for espn.com, this Lee “uses the numeral only when playing in South Korea.”
The eldest Jeongeun Lee, the “original,” told reporter Hojun Sung, "There are a lot of people who use the name 'Jeongeun Lee' in Korea. It is true that there are uncomfortable things with the same name. "However, Lee5 and Lee6 are excellent. So I feel better now. I cheer for my younger Lees. "
As for us average choppers, consider yourself lucky that you’re probably the best golfer named [insert your name here] that you know.