South Korea's Top 2 LPGA Tour Players on Longest Break Ever
By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer
Jin Young Ko of Korea Republic acknowledges the crowd after a birdie on the 12th green during Day Four of the AIG Women's British Open at Woburn Golf Club on August 04, 2019 in Woburn, England. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Jin Young Ko figures to be plenty rested whenever the LPGA Tour resumes.
Ko left the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, on Nov. 24 as the No. 1 player in women's golf, capping off her four-win, two-major season as the LPGA player of the year and winner of the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
The plan was to return for the Asia swing in mid-February and work her way into the season.
She's still waiting.
The next event on the LPGA schedule is May 14 at the Pelican Women's Championship in Florida, and that's looking more doubtful with each rapid development of COVID-19.
“In the 17 years that I've been playing golf, this is the first time I've had such a long break from competition,” Ko said in an email interview.
She's not alone. Sung Hyun Park withdrew from the final round in Naples with a sore left shoulder. She was No. 2 in the world at the time. Park, like Ko, skipped the two events in Florida and two in Australia, targeting her return in Asia.
Ko already was in the United States at the start of the year, while Park decided to come over when the new coronavirus led to the four-tournament Asia swing being postponed.
Now they're back home.
Ko returned to South Korea when the Founders Cup, Kia Classic and ANA Inspiration were postponed. She was the defending champion at Founders and ANA, the first major.
She's still working just as hard.
“I go to bed and wake up early,” Ko said. “At least four times a week, I have a two-hour workout after breakfast. I practice golf every day and take my dog for walks when I return home. I also take naps occasionally.”Park couldn't think of another time she was away from competition so long.
“I can't wait for the day that we get back on the golf course,” Park said. “I've accepted the fact that we won't be playing for a while. Health and safety is the top priority in this difficult situation for everyone. The only thing that I can do for now is wait patiently and practice and work hard to be ready for when the season is back on.”
Park has slipped to No. 3 behind Nelly Korda, who has two top-10 finishes in three events in January and early February.
The biggest competition for South Koreans is earning one of the four spots in the Olympics, which is no longer urgent with the games being postponed until the summer of 2021.
In the meantime, the wait — and the work — continues, along with perks the 24-year-old Ko never imagined.
“Although the ‘offseason’ has been long, I am also enjoying the downtime,” Ko said. “I can't remember the last time I was in Korea in the spring with my family. It's been wonderful to see the cherry blossoms bloom.”