South Korea’s Min-ji Park will be aiming to pick up where she left off when she competes in the inaugural Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open next week.
After finishing the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (KLPGA) Tour 2022 season with a bang last month, Park is one of a power-packed 75-member KLPGA contingent which adds glitter to the 102-player field, which will feature nine of the top 10 finishers of last season’s points standings.
The S$1.1 million event, hosted by the Tanah Merah Country Club from December 9-11, will serve as the season opener of the KLPGA Tour’s 2023 season as the prestigious circuit makes its first international stop in three years after the Covid-19 pandemic.
All eyes will surely be on world number 14 Park, who has been dominating the KLPGA Tour for the last two years.
She topped the KLPGA Tour Official Money list consecutively in 2021 and 2022 after securing 12 victories, six top-three outings, and finishing inside the top-10 on eight occasions during the two seasons.
She will arrive in Singapore in fine form, having clinched her 16th KLPGA Tour title at the season-ending SK Shieldus-SK Telecom Championship just three weeks ago.
Next, she has set her sights on winning her first tournament outside South Korea.
Noting that the opportunity to tee it up at the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open presents a new challenge, Park said: “It feels fresh because we finally get to play in a KLPGA tournament that’s held outside South Korea. It’s been a while since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think the wind, weather, grass and other environments would be a little different. I’ve been playing well in several KLPGA tournaments recently and definitely gained a lot of confidence through the experience.
“Winning a tournament outside South Korea would be a difficult challenge surely, but I’m relishing it. I’m confident I’ll be able to get a good result if I continue to practice consistently and manage my conditioning well.”
Park also hopes to make her maiden trip to Singapore as memorable as possible on and off the course – she is keen to sample some local food.
“While giving my best and playing well in the tournament is the goal, I’m also looking forward to trying some of the nice food Singapore offers,” she quipped.
Also making their way to the Tanah Merah Country Club are recently-crowned KLPGA Player of the Year Suji Kim, Yewon Lee, Hansol Ji, Yunji Jeong, Jiyoung Park, Somi Lee, Hee Jeong Lim and Ga Young Lee.
Former world number one Jiyai Shin’s presence will also be greatly felt in the tournament.
Tanah Merah Country Club holds special significance to Shin, who memorably claimed her LPGA Tour breakthrough at the HSBC Women’s Champions in 2009.
“This course was where I won my first championship since my LPGA debut. I played well on the last day of the tournament and took over first place, winning the championship,” recalled Shin.
“It feels like that day was just yesterday. I’m excited just to be back and playing on the same course.”
Shin hailed Hana Financial Group and Singapore Golf Association’s joint efforts in staging Singapore’s national women’s Open and is upbeat about the significant impact the tournament will have on the burgeoning women’s golf scene in Asia.
“It’s great to have a stage to showcase the outstanding golf courses and variety of cultures in Asia. Asian golf has been growing stronger and stronger on the world stage, and I think it definitely provides a good development platform for Asian players,” she said.
“It does feel different to be playing in a national Open (compared to regular Tour events). I don’t think you only see it from the players, but you also see the difference from the many personnel involved during the preparation stage of the tournament.”
World number three Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand had earlier confirmed her participation alongside American Solheim Cup team member Yealimi Noh and Philippines’ Princess Mary Superal, the Simone Asia Pacific Cup winner last August.
Tickets for the inaugural Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open are now available for purchase online via ticketmaster.sg or at the gate. Prices start at S$20 for single day entry and S$50 for the 3-day season pass. Admission is free for children aged 6 to 12 years old with every paying adult.