Sung Hyun Park, 10,000 followers and South Korean dominance


It is the form of devotion normally impressed by rock stars. However Sung Hyun Park, the topic of this adoration, just isn’t a musician.

Park is a golfer, albeit one whose abilities are deemed so extraordinary by some that they’re attracting a legion of devoted followers in her native South Korea.

Her breakthrough win got here on the 2017 US Open, a significant success she backed up with victory at this 12 months’s Ladies’s PGA Championship.

And her triumphs are making an influence again dwelling. Moh and Kim should not lifelong golf followers; they’ve each been drawn to the game by Park’s achievements, a part of a 10,000-strong, flag-waving fan membership.

Park, Moh and Kim have all traveled to Evian, a city within the shadow of the French Alps which sits on the shores of Lake Geneva.

It performs host to the Evian Championship, the fifth and ultimate main of the ladies’s golf season and one other likelihood for Moh and Kim to catch a glimpse of Park in motion.

Moh admires Park’s “highly effective, beautiful swing,” and says she is the rationale why she began taking part in the sport. She used to observe Park throughout Korea and, now her idol performs primarily overseas, tries to attend the majors.

“I wish to make my swing like hers,” explains the 33-year-old Moh. “It is inconceivable, I do know, however I am attempting to.”

Kim first noticed Park on TV and thought, “wow.” Her face lights up as she remembers her journey to Trump Nationwide Golf Membership in New Jersey for final 12 months’s US Open.

“I joined the victory, the second,” she explains by means of a large grin. “It was nice!”

Park is a part of a Korean vanguard. As of September 10, 38 Korean golfers sit inside the highest 100 of the ladies’s rankings, with 5 inside the highest 10 and 7 inside the highest 20.

Since 1998, Korean girls have gained 28 main championships. The nation boasts its personal thriving golf circuit, the LPGA of Korea Tour, and, in response to Moh and Kim, the ladies’s recreation is extra fashionable than the lads’s again dwelling.

It is a view backed up by Mike Whan, commissioner of the US-based LPGA Tour which is seen because the elite girls’s golf circuit.

He suggests this explosion of Korean expertise was triggered, partially, by the success of Se Ri Pak, who recorded 39 skilled wins — 25 on the LPGA Tour — together with 5 main championships gained between 1998 and 2006.

She was inducted into the World Golf Corridor of Fame in 2007 earlier than retiring in 2016.

“I view it as a wave,” Whan informed CNN. “Proper now, you are coping with Korea having a wave that occurred about 10 or 15 years in the past that actually created curiosity in golf.”

Whan says the LPGA Tour is extra fashionable amongst Koreans than the lads’s PGA Tour, considered as golf’s sporting and monetary pinnacle.

Because of this wave, the LPGA has “Korean sponsors sponsoring occasions in San Francisco,” explains Whan, an illustration of the nation’s curiosity within the success of its many feminine golfers.

Alongside Park, the likes of seven-time main winner Inbee Park, 2017 British Open champion I Ok Kim and So Yeon Ryu — who has two main victories to her identify — are laying down a problem for his or her opponents to satisfy.

Inbee Park has grown accustomed to seeing Korean followers at golf programs everywhere in the world and takes delight in what she and her compatriots have achieved within the sport.

The 30-year-old believes the success of her and her friends has helped the ladies’s recreation supersede the lads’s in Korea.

“We have now plenty of good followers in girls’s golf, it is larger than males’s golf in Korea,” she informed CNN. “So I believe that explains a distinction with different nations.

“I believe it is as a result of we have been taking part in very nicely and turning into the No. 1 gamers on the planet actually helped it.”

Regardless of the present spell of Korean dominance, gamers like Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn are making their mark.

Jutanugarn is just 22 however she has already topped the world rankings, thanks partially to wins on the US and British Opens.

And Whan suggests he’s already seeing the influence of her success in Thailand, whereas additionally highlighting Taiwan’s Yani Tseng — winner of 5 majors between 2008 and 2011 — as an inspiration in her homeland.

“I am watching that very same wave occur proper now in Taiwan or Thailand,” says Whan. “Proper now, you solely see a handful of Thai gamers on the LPGA, a pair on the prime of the world rankings.

“However what I see after we go to Thailand is that the way forward for girls’s golf in Thailand is like nothing earlier than.

“After I go to our qualifying faculty, I do not see two folks from Thailand, I see 20 folks from Thailand. Identical factor is true of Taiwan. Ten years in the past, there was Yani (Tseng) from Taiwan, at present there is a tour there.”

For now, Korea remains to be the dominant pressure. Nevertheless it stays to be seen whether or not devotees from Taiwan and Thailand will probably be touring the world in years to return.

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