Hyo Joo Kim began making big noise with her talent
as a 14 year old amateur in 2009.
That year, she played brilliantly at two KLPGA Major
championships. At the Hite Cup, she was one of the leaders after
the first round, and was even fifth as late as the start of the
fourth round. At that point she stumbled somewhat, but still compiled
an impressive T-13th result. At the KB Star Tour Grand Final, she
was again in the top five after the first round, but ended up tied
In 2010, she led Korea to a victory at the Queen
Sirikit Cup, an important team event. She also won individual honors
thanks to a final round 65. She was 8 shots ahead of the next player
in the field. Later in the year, she finished tied for third at
the Rush & Cash Charity Classic on the KLPGA tour.
Despite her quality amateur results, she was not
one of the three golfers chosen to represent Korea at the 2010 Asian
Games. That squad won the team gold and individual gold without
her, showing just how deep they are.
Hyo Joo continued to be a top junior golfer over
the next two seasons. In July of 2010, she won the R&A Junior
Open Girls golf title in Fife, Scotland, by three shots; Korean
New Zealander Cecilia Cho was third.
In 2011, she was again on Korea's squad for the
Queen Sirikit Cup. She finished second, one shot out of the gold
medal spot, but Korea won the team gold by four shots. Later in
the year, she achieved a major coup by claiming the Callaway Junior
World Golf Championship, winning the 15-17 year old division by
five shots. She was not able to qualify for the US Women's Amateur
later that summer, however, only achieving alternate status.
She had some good results on the KLPGA tour in 2011.
In June, she finished tied for 5th at the Woori Investment &
Securities Ladies Championship. She led the Korean Women's Open
after the first and second round, but a poor weekend reduced her
to 15th. She also had a 9th at the Lotte Mart Women's Open and a
tie for 20th at the Hite Cup, the year's third Major.
At the end of 2011, Kim triumphed at the Junior
Orange Bowl in Florida, making a birdie on the last hole to secure
Hyo Joo Kim had a mind blowing 2012 season that
saw her win multiple professional events, become a pro herself,
and threaten to become the next superstar in Korean golf. The fun
started at the first KLPGA event contested in 2012, the Lotte Mart
Women's Open. Kim got off to a blistering start, shooting a 66 to
take a share of the first round lead. She shot the best round of
the day on Friday as well, a 67, and had a 7 stroke lead by day's
end. By the middle of Saturday, she had built her lead to 10, but
then fell back to a 6 stroke lead by day's end. She finished the
week with another 66, absolutely crushing a field of top KLPGA pros
with ease. She had a nine shot win over second place Hyun Hee Moon,
13 strokes over KLPGA Player of the Year Ha Neul Kim, who finished
third. Only Se Ri Pak had ever had a more dominating KLPGA win while
still an amateur.
A few months later, she played her first JLPGA event,
the Suntory Ladies Open. Trailing by four going into the final round,
she produced a mind boggling final round 61, the lowest score ever
shot on the Japanese tour, to claim a four shot win. She became
the youngest winner, at 16, in JLPGA history, breaking the record
once held by Japanese legend Ai Miyazato. Her brilliant wins in
Korea and Japan started a bidding war among sponsors, all eager
to become her main sponsor whenever she turned pro.
Kim had brilliant results on the LPGA in 2012 as
well. The week after her win in Korea, she played Lotte's LPGA event,
and finished 12th. She had top 25 finishes at two other LPGA events.
But it was the remaining event she played that was truly special.
Invited to the Evian Masters, one of the most important events on
tour, Kim contended all week, and had a shot at winning even with
just a few holes to go. She came up just short, finishing tied for
4th, but everyone who watched her was in awe of the precocious 17
year old. She would go on to win another pro event in Taiwan for
her third professional win as an amateur in less than six months.
Kim was the medalist in stroke play at the 2012
US Women's Amateur, but lost in the second round of match play.
Her final amateur event was the Women's World Amateur Team Championship,
where she led Korea to a repeat of the team title and finished 4th
in the individual rankings. Kim then turned pro in October and signed
a deal with Lotte, the company whose event she had won back in April.
The deal was reportedly the largest for a rookie since Se Ri Pak.
Kim did not take long to make good on the promise.
She finished 13th at the Swinging Skirts event in December, a tournament
including most of the top women pros in the world. The following
week, she dueled with two-time champion Hye Youn Kim at the Hyundai
China Ladies Open, capturing the title when Kim double bogied the
final hole. It had taken Kim just two events as a KLPGA member (just
two months after turning pro) to notch her first win, the fastest
a player had ever gotten a KLPGA win after turning pro in the league's
As expected, Hyo Joo had a fantastic rookie year
on the KLPGA tour. As it turned out, she had a massive battle for
Rookie of the Year with another super talented teen, In Gee Chun,
but in the end, Kim prevailed. She also won the title for lowest
scoring average in 2013, while finishing fourth on the money list
and second in the Player of the Year contest. She notched 14 top
tens and an additional 6 top 20s while missing just one cut, and
wound up making 464 million won. Besides her win, her best finishes
were a tie for 2nd just a shot behind Mirim Lee at the KG Edaily
Ladies Open, a runner-up to Bo Kyung Kim at the E1 Charity Open,
a final round tussle with In Gee Chun (which Chun won) at the Korean
Women's Open (Hyo Joo finished 6th), another runner-up to Ha Neul
Kim at the MBN Kim Young Joo Golf Women's Open, a 4th at the year's
second Major, the KLPGA Championship, and a 3rd at the year's 4th
In addition to all of that, Kim also was tied for
the Player of the Year award with one event to go, but finished
just one shot behind Ha Na Jang in that final event to lose that
award by the barest of margins.
Kim also played two LPGA events in 2013. The better
result came at her sponsor's tournament, the Lotte Championship.
Paired with fellow teen sensations Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko,
Kim played really well. She climbed fairly high after three rounds
before a disappointing final round left her tied with Ko in 9th
Kim started the 2014 season with a tie for 4th at
the Swinging Skirts in December, and a 12th in defense of her China
Open title. She was thus 4th on the 2014 KLPGA money list by New
Year's Day 2014.
Hyo Joo Kim had a huge breakout season on the KLPGA
tour in 2014. By the end of the year, she had risen all the way
to 8th in the world rankings. Her year started well, with multiple
top tens early on. But she really hit her stride at the Korean Women's
Open. It was held that year the same week as the US Women's Open,
so top KLPGA star Ha Na Jang went to play that event while Hyo Joo
stayed behind. It was a good choice. Kim won the tournament for
her first career Major and first win in more than a year.
After that, the floodgates opened. Kim won the next
event on tour, then after a 6th place finish, won the Hanwha Classic
for her third win in four starts. That win put her above Jiyai Shin's
record for most money ever earned in a single season on the KLPGA,
and there was still a lot of season left to play.
Kim went from strength to strength the rest of the
year. She won two of the three remaining Majors on the KLPGA tour
for a total of five wins in 2014. She was the first player to win
that much in a year since Hee Kyung Seo in 2009, and the first since
Seo to win three Majors in a season. Kim won all the major awards
on tour. Her final money total of over 1.2 billion won made her
the first player to ever get above the billion won mark in a season.
She also beat the #2 player by about half a billion won. She also
won the Player of the Year, Most Wins and Low Scoring Average awards.
Amazingly, all of that wasn't even the most impressive
thing Kim did in 2014. She played four LPGA events and had top tens
in all of them. She played the Evian Championship in September,
her first career LPGA Major, and in her very first round at a Major,
shot a 61, the lowest score anyone had EVER shot in any Major, man
or woman. In her FIRST ROUND at her FIRST MAJOR. Kim would go on
to beat Karrie Webb in a duel for the title by making a clutch birdie
on the final hole to force a two shot swing over the Australian
Hall of Famer. The win gave Kim an LPGA tour card for 2015.
Kim also was the MVP at the Korea-Japan Team Championship,
leading South Korea to a crushing victory. Then, a week later, she
played at the Hyundai China Ladies Open, the first event of the
2015 season on the KLPGA tour, and won there, outlasting a furious
charge from friend and fellow Korean golf star In Gee Chun. So that
made it a total of seven wins for Kim in the calendar year 2014.
Hyo Joo's rookie year on the LPGA was a strong one,
although in the end only good enough for second in the Rookie race
to fellow KLPGA star Sei Young Kim. Still, it was a strong debut.
She notched 9 top tens, and won the JTBC Founders Cup in March for
her second LPGA win. She had two other fifth place finishes, but
didn't contend as often as perhaps her 2014 record would have predicted.
In part this was due to some medical issues she had in the latter
half of the year, as well as trying to play in both Korea and the
She also had a win on the KLPGA, at the Kumho Tire
event in China. That was her second official KLPGA win of 2015;
her first win also came at a KLPGA event in China the previous December.
And at the end of the year, she nearly defended at that event, finishing
just behind KLPGA star Sung Hyun Park.
Kim wound up 13th on the money list with nearly
$1 million in earnings. Her most impressive result was her scoring
average, which, at 70.14, was 5th best in the league. She only missed
one cut, and only two other times finished outside the top 25. And
of course, she earned top status for 2016. She ended 2015 10th in
the Rolex World Rankings.
Hyo Joo quickly established herself as a top contender
to make the Korean Olympic team in 2016 when she won the first event
of the LPGA season, the Pure Silk Bahamas. Alas, she was never able
to live up to that level of play for the rest of the season. She
did achieve five more top tens, but no more wins, and she failed
to make the Olympic or International Crown teams.
She wound up with a scoring average around 8 tenths
of a stroke worse than the one she had in 2015. She finished 20th
on the money list with about $750K earned.
At the end of 2016, however, Hyo Joo returned to
a place where she had had much success: the Hyundai China Ladies
Open. She won it for the third time in a pitched battle with fellow
Korean star Ha Na Jang. So perhaps Hyo Joo will be ready for a return
to top form in 2017.