S. Korean golfer realizes LPGA dream the hard way

General

SEOUL-- After putting together a solid and at times spectacular performance over two pressure-packed weeks, South Korean golfer An Narin has realized her dream of making it to the LPGA Tour.

She has done it the hard way. She could have taken a much shorter path to the LPGA just two months ago.

An won the 144-hole marathon that is the LPGA Q-Series in Alabama on Sunday (local time), finishing at 33-under 541 to beat Pauline Roussin-Bouchard of France by one stroke for the medalist honor. An carded a six-under 66 in the final round at Highland Oaks Golf Club, the best score by anyone over the last 18 holes.

The 25-year-old has won twice on the Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Tour and will now get to test herself against the world's top female players.

"I'm excited to be able to travel to different countries," An said, according to an interview transcript provided by the LPGA. "And I'm also looking forward to playing with players that I've only been able to see on TV."

An got to see some LPGA players in person in October, when she competed at the BMW Ladies Championship, the lone LPGA tournament staged in South Korea each season.

While playing as a KLPGA member, An took a first-round lead and remained tied for first through 36 holes. Any non-LPGA member who wins a tournament becomes eligible for the full-time LPGA status for the following year, an opportunity not lost on An.

Following the opening round, An revealed for the first time that she had signed up for the LPGA Q-Series.

"I started playing golf because I want to play on the LPGA Tour," An said then. "That's why I will enter the Q-School this winter. I want to do well there. But if I can win this week and go straight to the LPGA Tour, then it's going to be so much better."

An faded down the stretch and finished tied for third at 17-under, five shots out of a playoff won by Ko Jin-young.

A few South Korean players have taken that "win a tournament to get your LPGA card" route in recent years, and Ko has been the biggest success story. After capturing a tournament on home soil in 2017, Ko won the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2018, and then the Player of the Year in 2019 and 2021.

An will now join Ko and the rest of the talented South Korean contingent.

An said winning the Q-Series hadn't entered her mind until after Friday's round, when she was two strokes off the lead held by Roussin-Bouchard. In her post round interview then, An was asked about potentially finishing atop the leaderboard. She responded that she hadn't really set out to win the tournament and she simply wanted to keep playing well.

She admitted on Sunday that the initial question motivated her.

"I am very happy to have won the Q-Series," An said. "The past two weeks have been physically straining, but I'm happy to have finished on a high note."

Source: Yonhap News Agency