Updated: January, 2018


Video: So Yeon Ryu


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The Facts

Birthday: June 29, 1990
Rookie Year on LPGA: 2012
Birthplace: South Korea
KLPGA Rookie Year: 2008
LPGA Wins: 5
LPGA Major Wins: 2

Rookie of the Year Finish: Won!
Best Score: 61 (2017 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship)
Best Scoring Average: 69.68 (2017)
Best Season Money Total: $1,981,593 (2017)
Best Season Money List Position:
2nd (2017)
Most Top Tens/Season: 16 (2012)

Height: 5' 6"
Family: So Myung (Younger sister)
Post Season Awards: Rookie of the Year (2012), Player of the Year (2017)
2018 LPGA Status: Category 1
Nicknames: None Known
Sponsors: Mediheal, Honma
How's her English?: Very good
Road to the LPGA: Won the 2011 US Women's Open to earn status on the 2012 LPGA tour.

Capsule Bio

So Yeon Ryu was one of three Korean girls representing South Korea in golf at the Asian Games in 2006. The Games take place every four years, like the Olympics. Virtually every sport imaginable is played at these games, including sports like golf that are not part of the Olympic games. Countries from all over Asia field teams.

In 2002, the Japanese junior sensation Ai Miyazato won the individual gold in the women's golf event. In 2006, South Korea dominated. Ryu won both the individual gold and helped her team to win the team gold as well. Ryu not only won, she dominated. She shot 66-66-64-67 for a 29 under par total and a nine shot victory.

In 2007, Ryu powered the Korean squad to a mind boggling 20 stroke victory in the Queen Sirikit Cup, a women's amateur team stroke play golf event featuring 13 teams from Pacific Rim countries. Ryu also won individual honors with a 12 under par total for the week, six shots ahead of her teammate Hye Yong Choi and 12 shots ahead of the third place woman. It was Korea's 10th win in 30 stagings of the event.

So Yeon also played in the 2007 US Women's Amateur, but though she was 4th in the stroke play section, she was eliminated in the first round of match play.

In late 2007, at 17 years of age, Ryu turned pro. In February of 2008, she played in a professional event on the minor league Cactus Tour and won by six shots. She then joined the KLPGA tour and made an immediate impact. How immediate? She won the very first event she played in 2008, the Sports Seoul Open, with her arch rookie rival Choi finishing second, four shots back. She didn't play quite that well the next few events, however.

But when Ryu returned to contending, she did it with a bang. At the Korean Women's Open, the most important event of the year, Ryu found herself in a dogfight for the title with KLPGA superstar Ji Yai Shin. Going into the final nine, Ryu had carved out a four shot lead. But Shin was relentless, and by the 17th hole had caught the rookie star. Ryu eventually lost a three hole playoff to Shin. It was a bitter disappointment, but still a second place finish at a Major, hardly a bad result.

The loss started a string of nine straight top tens, including two more seconds and a third. Hye Yong Choi had several second place finishes herself during that span, but Ryu maintained her lead in the Rookie of the Year race. When Choi finally won her first event, the LotteMart Ladies Open, ironically it was Ryu who finished second.

As the year wound on, however, Choi continued to play well, while Ryu faded somewhat. A pivotal moment came at the year's third Major, the 4th KB Star Tour Event. Ryu was playing well when she made an illegal drop from a bunker and was disqualified. Choi, meanwhile, charged from behind, eventually losing a playoff to Shin. Her second place finish allowed her to pass Ryu in the Rookie standings.

Ryu and Choi both played well at the Saint Four Ladies Masters, an event co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour. Ryu wound up losing the Rookie of the Year title to Choi, although she had a chance until the final event to win it.

In December, Ryu was one of five top stars who appeared in a dance number (!) at the KLPGA Awards show.

Ryu started her 2009 season with a bang by finishing tied for 2nd at the ANZ Ladies Masters, her best showing outside of Korea since turning pro. She missed the cut at her first LPGA event played in the States, the JGolf event in Phoenix, but that proved to be only a momentary blip in a great year.

The start of the KLPGA season was dominated by Hee Kyung Seo, who won the first Major of the year. But Ryu kicked her season into high gear at the Doosan Match Play Championship. She gradually worked her way through the field, winning three sudden death playoffs on the way to the finals. Once there, she faced her arch rival He Yong Choi in a match for the ages. Tied after 18 holes, they played 9 more sudden death holes before Ryu finally captured the win, 7 hours and 11 minutes after they started. No one worked harder in 2009 to get a win than that.

The win sparked Ryu to brilliant heights. Just two events later, she won again, then racked up two more straight wins to become one of the few in KLPGA history to score three straight victories. She took over the money list and Player of the Year lead from Seo, and the two would spend much of the rest of the year duking it out for those titles. Seo finally secured the title when Ryu lost a playoff at the penultimate event of the year. But Ryu still made nearly 600 million won and finished second on the money list, second in Player of the Year points and third in scoring average. Without any question, in 2009 Ryu established herself as a bonified superstar.

In December, Ryu and Seo clashed again at the China Ladies Open, the first event of the 2010 season. Seo led going into the final round, but Ryu caught her and forced a playoff, winning after three holes. Amazingly, it was Ryu's last win on the KLPGA tour that season. She had several great chances to win during the year, but something always happened to short circuit her. Sometimes she would have a few bad holes at the wrong time, other times another player suddenly got hot and overtook her. But though she would not be the Player of the Year in 2010, she did have great results anyway: she made nearly 400 million won and finished 4th on the money list. Overall she had 14 top tens, which included an agonizing three seconds. She also had her first professional missed cut, and a total of 5 finishes outside the top twenty during the season.

Ryu got off to a strong start in the 2011 season. In the very first KLPGA event of the year, the 2010 China Ladies Open, she was in contention right until the end, but carded yet another second, losing to Hye Youn Kim. But after that start, she found herself struggling to make top tens for the next few months. At the Lotte Cantata Open, she was four shots back after two rounds, and it did not look like she would be a factor in the outcome. But she blitzed the field in the final round with a sizzling 64 to cruise to her first win in a year and a half.

As great as that result felt, it paled before what happened to Ryu early in July in Colorado Springs, CO. She was playing in the US Women's Open thanks to her top five finish on the KLPGA tour the previous year. After two rounds, she was in decent position. Rain had caused numerous delays, and she was forced to play nearly two full rounds on Sunday. By the end of the day, thanks to her brilliant play, she found herself a shot out of the lead with three holes to play. The leader? None other than her old rival Hee Kyung Seo, who was a rookie on the LPGA tour that season.

On Monday morning, Ryu had three holes to try to catch Seo and win the Major. She scrambled to an up and down on the 16th hole. On the par 5 17th, she had a great birdie chance, but burned the edge on her putt. That left her just one more chance to catch Seo. On the 18th hole, she hit a great drive, then a superlative iron that rolled to five feet. The putt was a tricky one, but she nailed it, forcing the three hole aggregate playoff with her friend. It was the first time ever that a Major featured a playoff between Koreans.

In the extra holes, Ryu played the same three holes she had just completed and dominated Seo. After both made par on 16, Ryu made birdie on 17 while Seo bogied. Then Ryu hit her approach on 18 even closer than she had an hour earlier, making a third birdie in the six holes she had played on this day to beat Seo by three shots. Ryu became the third youngest woman to ever win the title, behind Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park. She also became only the second Korean to win membership on the LPGA tour by capturing a Major (Jiyai Shin had been the first), and the first Korean to win that membership at the US Women's Open, the biggest women's golf event in the world.

Ryu decided she would join the LPGA in 2012, but there was still unfinished business in Korea. She still had yet to win a Major over there, and also wanted to finish atop the money list. But though she led the money list much of the season, she was not able to reach that goal, finishing third behind Ha Neul Kim. She also came up short at the Majors; her best finish there was a third place at the KLPGA Championship. But regardless of that, Ryu's 2011 had been a brilliant breakthrough for her. She finished the year with a tie for second at an Invitational event in Taiwan that featured many of the top golfers in the world (she was tied with Jiyai Shin and ahead of Na Yeon Choi).

Ryu's 2012 was brilliant from start to finish. Even before she played on the LPGA, she shot a 61 at the RACV Australian Ladies Masters en route to a second place finish. In her very first LPGA event (the Australian Women's Open), she had a four foot putt to win, but missed it and lost in a playoff. Over the next few tournaments, she added three more 4th place finishes and a 5th. Before even the second Major had been played, Ryu was already dominating the Rookie of the Year race.

In all, So Yeon racked up an impressive 16 LPGA top ten finishes in 2012, 12 of which were top fives. It was one of the most impressively consistent rookie campaigns a Korean had ever had. Some of the highlights include just missing a playoff at the Manulife Financial, two fifth place finishes in Malaysia and Taiwan, and a fifth place at the British Women's Open in September.

So Yeon had a number of great chances to win, but only grabbed one trophy, at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. She started the final round tied with three other Korean stars - IK Kim, Hee Kyung Seo and Jiyai Shin - but shot a blistering final round 62 to run away with a seven shot victory. Her 62 tied the record for lowest score ever shot in the final round to win a tournament. The other four women who share that record are all Hall-Of-Famers!

Besides the Aussie Open and the Manulife, Ryu's other best chances to win came at the Safeway Classic and the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Ryu lost a tight battle with old rival Mika Miyazato at the Safeway, finishing 4th. At the CME, she battled Na Yeon Choi the entire last day, but a couple of crucial mistakes cost her, and she finished second to the Korean star.

Ryu wound up winning the Rookie of the Year award, an award that had eluded her on the KLPGA tour, with an incredible 1,448 points. She beat runner-up Lexi Thompson by over 600 points, and was more than a thousand points ahead of the third place woman. She was 6th on the money list and second in scoring average behind Inbee Park. Among her other statistical achievements: 2nd in putting/green in regulation, 3rd in rounds under par, 2nd in birdies, and 5th in Player of the Year.

And that wasn't all! Ryu also won her 8th KLPGA victory at the Hanwha Classic, her sponsor's tournament! In December, she won both of her matches at the Korea-Japan Team competition, and finished tied for third at the Swinging Skirts event to end her year. She finished this epic season ranked 7th in the world rankings, well above her position at the start of the year, when she was outside the top 20.

So Yeon had an excellent 2013 season. Although she would not win a tournament, she stll made almost exactly the same amount as she had in 2012, while finishing slightly higher on the money list (5th). Her world ranking climbed as high as 4th due to her extreme consistency, which saw her notch ten top tens. Ryu had top four finishes in three of the five Majors, and had a good shot at a top ten at the British as well, but faded in the last few holes. She shot a final round 65 for a solo second at the Nabisco, and was one of only three players under par at the US Women's Open. But the Major she had the best chance to win was the Evian: she was in contention on Sunday, but just couldn't make the charge she needed and finished tied for 4th.

She had several other good chances for wins that fell short. At the Walmart NW Arkansas in June, she made a four putt late to fall into a tie with good friend Inbee Park, who ended up winning the playoff. She duked it out with Lydia Ko at the year ending Swinging Skirts, but another four putt dropped her below the teen prodigy and she finished second. Her most painful near miss came in defense of her Hanwha Classic title on the KLPGA. She had the lead for several days, and was 6 up with 10 to play. But then Sei Young Kim went on an amazing streak of skill and uncanny luck. She jarred an eagle on 9 from over 100 yards, then, on the 17th hole, made a hole in one! The result was a playoff which Ryu lost.

In 2014, So Yeon Ryu had another phenomenal season on the LPGA tour. She ended up breaking her career best money earnings with $1.4+ million earned. She also broke 70 for a scoring average for the first time, a feat only a few Korean golfers have ever managed. She notched 15 top tens, 10 of which were top fives. But although she did manage one win during the year, she still was winning at a lower pace than almost any other golfer of her stature.

The one win came at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. She went out with a 63 in the first round, and by the third round had already eclipsed the tournament record. She looked on her way to a huge win, but she struggled on the final nine and Na Yeon Choi charged. In the end Ryu held on by the skin of her teeth, with Choi finishing second and Inbee Park third.

Among her other good finishes was a solo second at the Marathon Classic in Toledo (she needed a birdie to tie Lydia Ko and force a playoff, but missed the short putt); a tie for 4th at the HSBC; a tie for third place in Portland (she needed to make par on the final hole, but hit her ball into the water and missed out on a playoff); and a tie for third at the Sime Darby. Interestingly, she did not have a very strong year at the Majors. She did briefly contend at the US Women's Open, but after an early Sunday charge fell off the pace. But that was her only top ten in a Major in 2014. Regrettably, she was disqualified at the Evian when she damaged her putter after a bad shot, then used it to putt out. Hitting a shot with an altered club is illegal, hence the DQ.

So Yeon also played on the International Crown team with her good friends Na Yeon Choi, Inbee Park and IK Kim. Ryu and Park teamed for two team wins and one loss, but they had their biggest moment when they teamed to win a playoff against the US for the final spot in the event's finals. Ryu also won her singles match on Sunday, but Korea only finished tied for third because both Choi and Kim struggled all week.

Those three ladies joined Inbee Park for her wedding in October; they and Ji Young Oh served as Park's bridesmaids.

Ryu did not win on the LPGA tour in 2015, but she had another strong season, earning over $1.2 million and finishing 8th on the money list. She made every cut during the year, and by the end of the season had the longest streak of made cuts on tour.

Among her best finishes was a tie for 4th behind friend Inbee Park at the HSBC Women's Champions, a tie for 4th at the Manulife, a tie for 5th at the US Women's Open, a tie for 3rd at the Women's British Open, a tie for 4th at the Meijer Classic, a 4th at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, and a tie for second at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship. Her two best chances to win were in May at the Kingsmill and in August at the Canadian Women's Open. At Kingsmill, she entered a Monday finish several shots behind Minjee Lee, but started her final four holes with three straight birdies and came up just short of catching Lee, finishing second.

At the Canadian, which took place in Vancouver, Ryu was defending champ. She played great, but just couldn't make enough birdies in the final round to catch Lydia Ko, and wound up tied for third.

Though Ryu did not win on the LPGA, she did collect two wins on other tours in 2015. At the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship in China in March, she duked it out with good friend and defending champion Inbee Park, going back and forth in the final round before taking the lead for good on the 17th hole. Her second win came in Korea at the High-1 Resort Women's Open. She found herself in a tense final round battle with defending champ Ha Na Jang. Ryu made a spectacular 50+ foot birdie putt on the 12th hole, which unnerved Jang, who proceeded to bogey the next two holes. So Yeon went on to win by two.

At the end of the year, So Yeon played the ING Champions match which pitted the LPGA against the KLPGA. Her LPGA team won. Paired with Inbee, she halved on the first day and won a close one on day two. She won her singles match against Yoon Ji Cho and was chosen the MVP of the event!

So Yeon changed coaches in the off-season and worked on making her swing better than ever. She succeeded, and had another incredible year in 2016. Alas, she was not able to win on the LPGA for a second straight year, nor did she get any wins on other tours. She also missed out on the Olympics, but did play on the International Crown team after her friend Inbee Park had to drop out due to injury.

The first few months of the year were fairly poor by her standards, but she did manage a tenth at the ANA Inspiration. She finally upped her game at the Swinging Skirts, shooting an opening round 63 there and finishing 5th. After four more top 20s, she contended at the year's second Major, finishing tied for 4th. She just missed a top ten at the US Women's Open, finished tied for 11th, but bounced back with a tie for 8th at the British Women's Open. Four Majors, four top 11 finishes.

But she had her best Major at the final one of the year, the Evian. She started with back-to-back 66s to move into the hunt. After a third round 69, she was several shots behind leader In Gee Chun. But she brought her A Game, shot a fourth round 66, and wound up tied for 2nd with Sung Hyun Park, four shots behind Chun. She had made only one bogey all week and shot a score that would have won most other years, but in 2016 had to settle for a second place.

Ryu finished her year with three straight top fives: a tie for 5th at the Sime Darby, a tie for third at the Toto Japan Classic, and a solo second at the CME Group Tour Championship. That last one was painfully close to a win. After slugging it out with Charley Hull all weekend, she finally caught her on the 16th hole on Sunday. But Ryu put her approach on the par 5 17th into the one spot she could not go: right up against the face of a five foot tall bunker. She made bogey and that was it for getting the win.

So Yeon still had a great season: a scoring average of 70.07, and earnings of more than $1.2 million. She also had 11 top tens. She did not miss a cut all year, and now has the longest streak of no missed cuts on the LPGA.

Ryu also played in the International Crown, where she was the undisputed team leader in the absence of Inbee Park. She and Sei Young Kim lost their first match, but rebounded with wins over Taiwan and Australia. So Yeon also stood tall in defeating the top American, Lexi Thompson, in singles. Korea finished second to the US, however.

At the ING Champions, So Yeon represented the LPGA team. She teamed with Q Baek to beat Ji Hyun Oh and Jeong Eun Lee 6 1 up, then teamed with Sei Young Kim to beat Ji Hyun Oh and Ji Hyun Kim 2 3 & 1. However, she lost her singles match to the top KLPGA star Jin Young Ko 3 & 2. The LPGA team won 13-11.

2017 was So Yeon's best season to date. At last she emerged from the shadow of her good friend Inbee Park to establish herself as one of the great players in the game. She started the year with 8 straight top tens; including the three she finished 2016 with, that made 11 straight total. So Yeon would have 12 total top tens for the year, best in the league.

As well as she was playing, she was missing out on wins. She finished second to Amy Yang in Thailand, then 2nd again to Mirim Lee at the Kia Classic. At the ANA Inspiration, the year's first Major, she was again in the hunt, but it looked like she would lose to American star Lexi Thompson. Then the unbelievable happened: Thompson received a 4-stroke penalty for improperly replacing a ball on the green, and just like that, Ryu was back in the tournament. On the final green, So Yeon needed a birdie to force a playoff, but her second shot had left her in a tricky spot behind the green. From there, she hit a miraculous chip to four feet, then made the birdie putt. Meanwhile, her playing partner Inbee missed her birdie to join Ryu in that playoff.

In the playoff, Ryu face a hostile crowd very much on Thompson's side, but she hit a great tee shot, reached the green in two, then made an up and down for a birdie and the win. It was her second career Major and first win at this tournament.

A few months later, So Yeon again won, this time in Arkansas, thanks in large part to a second round 61, her career best score. The win not only secured the first multi-win season of her LPGA career, it also moved her into the #1 spot in the world rankings. She would remain there for 19 weeks.

So Yeon ended up making nearly $2 million for the year, shattering her old best, and finished second on the money list to only Sung Hyun Park. She also exactly tied Park for the Player of the Year award, her first post-season award since her rookie year. Shortly after that, she played for the LPGA team at the ING Champions, but lost both of the matches she played, thanks largely to a shoulder injury that had slowed her down the last few events of the year. Hopefully she will get healthy in the off-season and return to action fully ready to try and reclaim her #1 ranking.

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