started playing golf at the age of nine. As an amateur she recorded
48 victories, including the 1996 World Amateur Golf Championship.
She turned pro in 1998, choosing to focus on the Japanese LPGA tour
rather than the KLPGA (she is fluent in Japanese). There she managed
to win the Rookie of the Year award, the same year Se Ri Pak won
the Rookie of the Year award on the American LPGA (it was a good
year for Korea!). She played on the JLPGA for several more years,
in 1999 managing two victories and finishing fifth on the money
2000, she came over to America to try her luck on the LPGA. She
finished 27th at Q-School, only good enough for conditional status
on the LPGA. Despite this, she did very well in the Rookie of the
Year race, Monday qualifying for tournaments an impressive 7 of
11 attempts in 2001. She ended up with four top twenties and a top
ten that year and won the Rookie of the Year award, the only player
that I know of to have won the award both on the LPGA and the JLPGA.
Her 70th place finish on the money list gave her an exempt card
for 2002; no more Monday qualifying!
good as her rookie year was, though, it was 2002 where Hee-Won really
made a name for herself. Her first big success came at the Longs
Drugs Challenge, where she was among the top leaders, but still
several shots back of Cristie Kerr, until Kerr made a few mistakes
and, stunningly, Han suddenly moved into a tie for the lead. Alas,
a mishit drive on the 18th hole cost her a bogey and a one shot
loss to Kerr, but the second place finish was by far her best on
the LPGA. She followed that up with several more top finishes, and
at the Big Apple Classic, playing against fellow Korean Gloria Park
and World #1 Annika Sorenstam, Hee-Won came from behind to grab
a share of the lead with Park and force an all Korean playoff. In
fact, Hee-Won even had a short putt to win it outright on 18, but
missed it and had to settle for the playoff. Once there, Gloria
won, but it was a second second place finish for Hee-Won. Just the
next week, Hee-Won found herself again just one shot out of the
lead (behind Seoul Sister Mi Hyun) at the Wendy's Championship,
after Peanut put her tee shot on 17 into the water, but again, Hee-Won
fell just short of catching Mi Hyun, finishing second again. Hee-Won
had one more chance to shine, moving her way relentlessly up the
ladder at the Cisco World Match Play championship. But in the semifinals
she lost to Japanese player Midori Yoneyama, when Yoneyama came
from behind, tied her at 18, then beat her in extra holes. Had she
won that match she would have played Seoul Sister Grace for yet
another chance at her first victory.
proved to be an even better year for Han. After finishing third
at the Safeway Ping, she seized an early lead at the LPGA Championship,
but faltered on the weekend. Then, she returned to the Sybase Big
Apple Classic, and this time squeezed out the win, her first on
the LPGA. This started a string of great performances, which included
another win at the Wendy's, a second place at the Jamie Farr, and
another second place at the Evian Masters. All of this resulted
in her career best finish on the money list, 4th, and her first
time breaking a million dollars in earnings for a single season.
finished the year by marrying her beau, pro baseball pitcher Hyuk
Son. The marriage of two famous athletes was a first for Korea,
and it greatly raised Hee-Won's profile in the Korean press.
got off to a slow start for Hee-Won. In fact, it was not until mid-season
that she started to pick up good finishes. But as usually happens
with her, she got on a roll in late summer, and won her only event
of the year in September at the Safeway Classic. She once again
finished the year in the top ten, this time 8th on the money list.
The 2005 season was much the same: she collected another win, had
a few more good chances to win, and ended up tying her career best
of 11 top tens on the year.
continued her excellent play in the 2006 season. As usual, she had
a nice streak where she put together five consecutive top five finishes,
including two seconds and a win. The win came at the Corning Classic
in a playoff, beating fellow Korean Meena Lee. With this victory,
she has notched a win in every season since 2003. She also had her
first ever top ten at a Major when she finished 6th at the Nabisco.
She added a second win at the Honda Thailand tournament in October,
and finished 2006 with more than a million in earnings. In the last
four years, she is the only Korean golfer to finish in the top ten
on the money list all four years.
the year ended, she made a surprising announcement: she was expecting
her first child! In 2007, she only played a few tournaments before
taking an extended maternity leave following the Nabisco Championship.
In late June, she gave birth to a son by Cesarean section. They
named the little boy Hae-Il (English name: Dale). Hee-Won returned
to action in time to defend her title at the Honda Thailand tournament
in October. She played two events at the end of the season, finishing
11th and 10th at them.
returned to action full time in 2008. She did not play at the top
level she was formerly at, but still managed to have a fair amount
of success right away. She just missed a top ten in her first event
of the year, and finished 7th at the second. She tied her best ever
Major finish with a 6th at the Nabisco, and began her year with
top 20s in all but one of her first 8 events (and she finished 22nd
at that one). But she was not really putting herself in contention
consistency decreased later in the season, although she still was
capable of amazing rounds of golf. She finished tied for third in
Rochester, producing a 64 in round three. She then shattered her
best ever round with a 61 at the State Farm; with just three holes
to go, she had a three foot putt to move to 12 under, but just missed
it. She had a weak Evian Masters, but shot a 65 in the final round
to vault up the standings.
did all of this while leaving her son with relatives back in Korea.
The separation was tough, but she did manage to go back home to
visit him from time to time when the schedule allowed.
2009, she was still looking for her first win since Dale's birth.
She didn't manage that, and it was a bit of an off year, but she
did achieve a couple of memorable highlights. Her best moment came
at the year's final Major, the British Women's Open, where she finished
tied for third, her best ever Major performance. She wound up 29th
on that year's money list.
was her weakest season since her rookie year, but she still finished
43rd on the money list, easily maintaining full status for 2011.
She had only one top ten all year, a tie for 4th at the ShopRite
Classic. In 2011, she had 2 top tens, her best finish a tie for
6th at the Canadian Women's Open. She finished 40th on the year's
was another decent but unspectacular season for Han. Her best finish
came at the ShopRite Classic, where she scored a tie for 5th. She
made over $250,000 and finished 46th on the money list. Her biggest
highlight of 2012 might have been serving as the Captain of the
victorious Korean team at the Korea-Japan Team Championship.
finished 71st on the LPGA money list in 2013 with no top tens, her
best finish being a tie for 17th at the Mizuno Classic. Han finished
108th on the money list in 2014, with her best finish coming at
the Founders Cup near the start of the year (a tie for 15th).
officially retired from the game in 2014, playing her last round
at the Portland Classic in September. Interestingly, Jeong Jang
also played her final LPGA round the same day. Congratulations to
Hee-Won Han on a great career, and best of luck to her and her family
in the future!