CONCORD, N.H., August 5, 2007 –
But third-year player Ji Min Jeong answered a few questions of her own today when she won the $75,000 USI Championship by three shots at 209 (-7) at Beaver Meadow Golf Course. Jeong spun her approach shot back to 15 feet on the 18th hole to card a two-under-par final round of 70 for the $10,500 winner’s check.
And even on the last hole with a comfortable two-shot lead, Jeong’s mother, Hyun Soon Kim -- caddying for her daughter -- offered one last bit of advice: “Don’t try too much. Par is OK.”
But Jeong was better than OK all day. And while she says she “had a lot of luck today,” consider that she shared the lead going into today’s final round and never lost it after the first hole. That win at the oldest course in New Hampshire came on the same green where previous champions Kyeong Bae and Charlotte Mayorkas won their last tournament on the Duramed FUTURES Tour before moving on to the LPGA.
“I feel really, really happy and I thank my mom,” said Jeong, 22, of Kyungki, Korea, who moved from 15th to eighth on the Tour’s season money list with today’s win. “I’ve had a lot of good chances to win this year, but I couldn’t always make it. My mom didn’t stop supporting me.”
Jeong’s mom caddied earlier in the season before the player decided she was going to handle the caddie duties herself. In recent weeks, she carried her own bag once and had a caddie for the last two events in Connecticut and New York. With three previous top-10 finishes this season, Jeong had several solid chances to win, but just couldn’t close the deal. When she wasn’t on the bag, Mama Kim walked quietly from shade tree to shade tree watching her daughter play, twisting the Buddhist beads on her wrist and fretting over too much or too little effort.
Finally earlier this week in the New Hampshire capital, with five tournaments remaining in the 2007 season, the two women sat down and had a little discussion.
Said Jeong: “My mom told me, ‘You have good skill, you just have to control your mind better. I’ll help you. Just trust me.’ So she helped me this week. Some of it was just mom things, like [telling me] to drink water or eat a banana, and some things were mental.”
But mental or nutritional, Jeong showed the same form that allowed her to win twice in 2006. And once again, she was quietly ruthless on the tricky tree-lined course with subtly breaking greens that caused more than a few good putters to leave this New England town scratching their heads.
“I didn’t hit it well or putt well today and Ji Min played really solid,” said Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., who started the day tied for the lead with Jeong, but carded a three-over-par final-round score of 75 to tumble into a tie for third at 214 (-2) with Sarah-Jane Kenyon (73) of Queensland, Australia.
Second-year player Tiffany Tavee of Gilbert, Ariz., started the round five shots off the lead, but carded the day’s low round with a timely score of 68 to grab solo second at 212 (-4). The former Arizona State University collegian finished six groups ahead of Jeong and waited on the practice green to see if the frontrunner would slide backward on the final holes.
But there was no slipping for Jeong. Not today.
“I was trying to give it a run and see how far up the leaderboard I could move,” said Tavee, 22, whose final round included six birdies and two bogeys. “I didn’t really expect the girls at the top to falter, but I wanted to see how many birdies I could make.”
Jeong was too strong, carding three birdies and one bogey with a chip-in for birdie from 27 feet on the ninth hole and a second chip-in to save par on No. 15. In the treacherous span of holes from Nos. 14-17, Jeong was one-under par. She even birdied the par-five 16th hole – Beaver Meadow’s most difficult hole, that boasts a tilted, back-to-front green that cost current LPGA Tour member Meaghan Francella an untimely double-bogey in the final round last year.
“Those four holes are dangerous,” said Jeong.
And so is the Korean, now that she is back in the winner’s circle. It seemed that when Jeong wasn’t missing a cut in 2006 – and she missed six – she was winning the tournament. Now, she is cruising into the final stretch of events with four top-10s, a fair share of confidence and the one thing her mom said she needed all the time.
“My mind and my thinking are more calm,” said Jeong. “Before this tournament, I had a lot of disappointment in myself. I had worked hard all season, but didn’t get good results. Now, I have good confidence. Now, maybe I can get into the top five and get an LPGA card.”
And now, Ji Min Jeong and her mom can finish the season with a few more peaceful moments. Maybe they won’t always agree on everything, but if they can win together, the victory is a little sweeter. And just like her mom says, a calm mind delivers good things.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Sunny and clear with a high temperature of 80 degrees. Winds around 10 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at [email protected]