By Kang Seung-woo
The Korea LPGA Tour begins its 2013 season Friday in Taiwan featuring some of the world's best female golfers at the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, co-sanctioned with the Taiwan Ladies Professional Golf Association (TLPGA). The $800,000 tournament was established last year as an invitational event but became an official leg for both tours in September.
Top Korean golfers including Kim Ha-neul, the money leader for two straight years, 2012 Player of the Year Yang Je-yoon and three-time winner Kim Char-young will take the course, but they are not the most notable in the field.
Even though the three-day competition is tagged as the first event for the Korean tour, high-profile players, most from the LPGA Tour, will also vie for the $150,000 winner's share.
Park In-bee, who this year sat atop the U.S. tour's money list and claimed the Vare Trophy, given to a player with the lowest scoring average for the season, U.S. Women's Open champion Choi Na-yeon, Women's British Open winner Shin Ji-yai, Yoo Sun-young, who triumphed at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and Rookie of the Year Ryu So-yeon will compete at the Miramar Golf and Country Club. In addition, World Golf Hall of Famer Pak Se-ril will join the Korean contingent.
The battle between rookie Kim Hyo-joo and Lydia Ko of New Zealand is also drawing interest. Ko became the youngest golfer at 15 to win an LPGA Tour tournament with success at the Canadian Women's Open in August, while Kim turned pro two months ago and they were ranked first and second on the amateur circuit.
Along with them, a number of players in the world top 20 such as Suzann Pettersen, who collected two victories in Korea and Taiwan in October during the LPGA Tour's Asian swing, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and veteran Cristie Kerr have also committed to the tournament. Ninety-five competitors will play 54 holes of stroke play golf with no cut, preceded by a charity skins game.
However, defending champion and world No. 1 Yani Tseng has pulled out of the event due to elbow and shoulder injuries.