Report by Tim Maitland
Teenager Ji Yai Shin has completed her sensational 2007 season on the Korean LPGA tour by winning an amazing ninth tournament. The nineteen-year-old, who has broken virtually every record for professional women's golf in Korea and captured the hearts of the Korean golfing public with the story of her tragic adolescence, claimed the final stroke play event of the campaign by winning the ADT CAPS Championship at the Sky Hill course on Jeju Island.
All photos by Seoulsisters.com
Shin's latest triumph came in only her 18th KLPGA event this year, giving her an incredible 50 per cent success rate. It took her season's earnings to a KLPGA-record Korean Won 674,541,667 (around US$724,500), more than twice that of her closest rival Eun Hee Ji. However she modestly refused to dwell on her record breaking year, focusing instead on next weekend's annual Korea v Japan match play tournament – the Kyoraku Cup.
"The season hasn't ended for me yet," she told reporters.
"My priority is to help out my teammates to win and I will try my best to do that."
In two seasons as a professional, the youngster from Chonnam province has eclipsed virtually all of the records previously held by Korean legend and newly inducted LPGA Hall-of-Famer Se Ri Pak as well as setting a new record for career earnings.
Sunday's win in Jeju took her total to Korean Won 1,048,596,000 (around US$1,128,296 ), but Shin is recognized just as much in her homeland for her humble origins as the daughter of a lay preacher, for nursing her seriously injured brother and sister for over a year after a 2003 car crash killed her mother, and for her humility, faith and generosity.
"I think for her to hold her own among older players in Korea, while staying humble is highly admirable," said Se Ri Pak earlier this month.
"Korean players, as much as they were successful in the world of women's golf, have to withstand a lot of pressure from not only the local media and their compatriots, but also from family and peers alike. To achieve what she has so far while being herself is quite admirable."
Shin, who finished sixth in this year's US Open, will get her next crack at the superstars of the LPGA in February next year. As winner of the KLPGA's Money List and Player of the Year, she earns an invitation to the new US$2 million HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore where many of her compatriots believe she will show the strength of her mental resolve.
"In Korea, when you play well everyone focuses on you. There's a lot of pressure," said Il Mi Chung, whose KLPGA record for career earnings Shin broke.
"She's on her own, everyone's looking at her and she's still winning. It shows how strong she is."
Report by TIm Maitland
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photo Cheltenham Racecourse