Yang Soo-jin offers more than just good looks
By Kang Seung-woo
Yang Soo-jin has been called a fashionista of the fairways.
Her eye-catching style and model-like appearance has made the 20-year-old one of the hottest properties on the KLPGA Tour.
But a closer look at her career shows a golfer who has also established herself as a dominant presence on the Korean women’s professional circuit for her results on the course.
“As I have a strong interest in fashion, I am glad to hear the nickname,” Yang said in an interview with The Korea Times.
Since turning pro in 2009 after a decorated amateur career including a two-year national-team stint, Yang has emerged as one of the biggest draws on the Korean circuit.
As a rookie, she competed in 17 tournaments and had five top-10 finishes including second place at the Woori Investment and Securities Ladies Championship en route to becoming runner-up to Ahn Shin-ae for the best rookie award.
Yang’s breakthrough moment came in 2010.
She grabbed her first career title at the Korea Women’s Open, the Tour’s first major of the year, and added another victory later that year.
Along with the two championships, Yang, known for her long tee shot, finished second three times and placed third three times for 13 top-10 finishes that year.
She earned 538 million won ($471,000) to rank second on the money list and was third in both the scoring and putting averages.
In her third pro year, Yang continued to perform well, winning the Doosan Match Play Championship and coming away with second at the KLPGA Championship, becoming the KLPGA Tour’s fourth-highest money leader.
Thanks to her track record, ahead of entering this season many expected her to pick up where she left off, including Yang herself.
“I had set my sights on claiming five or six titles before the season,” said Yang, who failed to break into the top-10 in the first five tournaments of the year before eventually claiming the S-Oil Champions Invitational, the final competition of the season’s first half, in June.
“I got off to a poor start, so I had second thoughts about whether I could win a title in the first half.”
She attributed her early struggles to a pre-season swing change.
“My new swing was all right in practice but did not work in competitions, which forced me to often return to the old one. As a result, I found myself using two swings and it did not help,” she said.
Yang also said Kim Char-young’s back-to-back titles at the Woori Investment and Securities Ladies Championship and the Doosan Match Play Championship during the first half also negatively affected her. Both golfers are sponsored by Nefs, a local custom-made kitchen provider.
“Kim’s back-to-back championships were like a monkey on my back and her wins pushed me to fret about clinching a title,” she said.
However, Yang believes that her victory at the S-Oil Invitational will set her back on track for the latter part of the year, with the Tour scheduled to resume on Aug. 10.
“I have finally found the winning touch,” said Yang.
“Frankly speaking, as there were only six events in the first sixth months and long gaps between tournaments, so I had difficulty in finding rhythm. But we have two eight-straight match weeks and I will be able to keep my game on.”
She is eyeing two titles — most wins and prize money.
“I have scaled down my goal to four wins for this season. In addition, I was close to becoming the top earning player in the past two years. So, I want to finish atop the winning table and the money list at the end of the season,” she said.
Given her great length off the tee and solid iron shots, many think she can make a splash on the LPGA Tour, where 27 Korean golfers were registered as of late April, but Yang would prefer to play on the Japan LPGA Tour, although she is in no rush.
“I have not seriously mulled playing abroad yet, but I will pick the JLPGA,” said Yang, who plans to apply for its qualifying school next year.
“As for the U.S. Tour, it requires a lot in terms of physical strength and I might be troubled by food, too. However, Japan is close to Korea and I can come and go freely, so Japan has priority over the United States.”
Fashion is a matter of interest for the modish Yang, an art student-turned-golfer, and she wants to link her interest with the sport after retirement.
“After quitting golf, I want to study fashion, particularly designing trendy golf clothing with which I am familiar, to be colorful and unique,” she said.