Updated: Jan, 2014

JIYAI SHIN

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The Facts

Birthday: April 28, 1988
Rookie Year on KLPGA: 2006
Birthplace: South Korea
LPGA Wins: 11
LPGA Majors: 2 (2008, 2012 Ricoh Women's British Open)
Best score: 62 (2012 Kingsmill Championship)
Best Scoring Average for a year: 70.25 (2010)
Best Season money total: $1,807,334 (2009)
Best Season Money Position: 1st (2009)
Most Top Tens/Season: 14 (2010)

Rookie of the Year Finish: Crushed the field

Post Season Awards: 2009 Rookie of the Year
Height: 5' 2"
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1
Nicknames: AKA Ji Yai Shin, Ji Ae Shin; Little Angel; Chalk Line; Final Round Queen
Sponsors: PRGR, Mirae Asset Global Investments
How's her English?: Decent
Hobbies: Unknown
Road to the LPGA: Won Women's British Open to gain LPGA tour card for 2009

Capsule Bio

Ji Yai Shin is the latest in a long line of Korean golfers who made her first big splash as an amateur teenager. In 2005, while still in high school, she was the only amateur to win a KLPGA event that season when she claimed the SK Enclean Invitational.

Shin's story is not entirely a happy one, however. A couple of years before that first win, she was practicing on the driving range when she received a phone call telling her that her mother had been killed in a car accident, and her younger siblings critically injured. Her younger brother and sister were so badly hurt that they had to stay in the hospital for nearly a year. Ji Yai actually moved into the hospital with them to help take care of them. She never won a tournament when her mother was alive; but not long after her death, using the insurance money to help finance her career, she began a winning tear that has not stopped to this day. She dedicates all her successes to the memory of her mother.

Ji Yai turned pro at the end of 2005 and played in Asia, where she won the Hong Kong Open. Returning to the KLPGA as a rookie in 2006, she started her year brilliantly with a pair of third place finishes in her first two events.

Then she surprised everyone by trumping a top field, including American LPGA star Cristie Kerr, to win the Korean Women's Open, the biggest event on the KLPGA schedule all year. She kept up her torrid pace by finishing second at the next event. As of that point, she had seized control of the league, first in birdies, money earned and rounds under par.

For a while, Hee Young Park kept pace, but soon Shin's relentless consistency wore down all challengers. She won a second time at the PAVV Invitational, and collected one top finish after another after that. It seemed like almost every week she would be in contention. Even those few events where she was nowhere close to the leader, like when Jin Joo Hong lapped the field at the SK Solux Invitational, Shin would still be somewhere near the top of the leaderboard.

She wound up collecting an astounding 12 top five finishes on the season. With several events to go, she broke Se Ri Pak's ten year old record for most money made in a season; she would wind up crushing it by more than 100 million won. She destroyed the field by 9 shots to win her third event of the year at the Orient Chinese Open, and finished the year with a scoring average of 69.72, the only sub-70 season scoring average in the history of the KLPGA tour. She thus won every major award for the 2006 season, and all this as an 18 year old rookie.

2007
As it turned out, her 2007 season was so fantastic that it made even her 2006 season, amazing as it was, pale in comparison. Shin would play on four continents during the year, contending for the title virtually every time she teed it up. She started the year by joining Young Kim to represent Korea at the World Cup; the pair would wind up third, just one shot behind the American team of Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst. Shin would then play two Australian events, notching top fives in both (including a second at the ANZ Ladies Masters). She would soon after dominate at the Thai Open, winning by ten shots. And all this was before the KLPGA season had even started.

Remarkably, she did not immediately dominate the KLPGA at the start of the year. Two other young golfers, Sun Ju Ahn and Eun Hee Ji, both got out to great starts. Ahn won the Korean Women's Open, and Ji won two events in a row and nearly made it three. For her part, Shin did notch a bunch of top threes, and did win the MC Square tournament, but still found herself in third on the money list.

That didn't last long, however. Starting with the Seokyung Open, Shin went on a holy tear. She won three straight events, becoming the first to do that on the KLPGA since Mi Hyun Kim in the late nineties. After a brief break to play at the US Women's Open (see below), Shin returned to Korea, had an 'off week' where she only finished fifth, then won the next two events. Her win at the fourth KB Star Tour event was particularly memorable, for it made her only the second golfer in history to win five times in a season on the KLPGA tour. It wasn't easy: the first round was not finished on the first day due to darkness. Shin had the first round lead, but when they finished the round the next day, the referees stupidly placed the tee markers on one hole ten yards closer. When they discovered the error, they had to throw out the entire results from that round, including Ji Yai's lead. This reduced the event to two rounds. Shin had a weak second round, so instead of having the lead, like she should have, she found herself four strokes back. Not to worry: she shot a sizzling 65 in the third round and won anyway to tie the record for most wins in a season.

The next week, she won again to become the first KLPGAer to win 6 times on tour in a year. And she was far from done. She would win three more events during the season for an astounding nine total wins. Ji Yai Shin, who had just the year before become the first woman to break 300 million won in one season, broke 600 million won in 2007. She won half the events she entered on the KLPGA, and only twice finished outside the top 5 (and only once, an 11th place finish, outside the top ten). For the second straight year, she finished under 70 in scoring average, nearly a stroke and a half ahead of Eun Hee Ji. And even then she wasn't done: she won the Orient Ladies Chinese Open in December, an event that counted towards the 2008 KLPGA season.

2007 also marked the year where Shin really made a splash in international golf as well. Besides the World Cup and other events mentioned above, she played her first Majors and other top LPGA events, and by and large continued her success there. After a weak SBS Open, she played quite well at her first ever Major, the Nabisco, finishing 15th. But it was at the US Women's Open where she made the biggest splash. Riding her three event win streak on the KLPGA, she played brilliantly at the Open, staying near the lead the entire week, and even holding the lead all by herself entering Sunday. She wound up finishing sixth, but made quite a name for herself nonetheless.

The next month, she almost won the Evian Masters. She made a couple of putting mistakes towards the end that cost her, but still had a shot at the playoff for the title. On the par 5 18th, she put her second shot into a greenside bunker, than nearly hit her sand shot into the cup for eagle (it stopped on the lip). The birdie she made there left her one shot out of the playoff eventually won by Natalie Gulbis.

At the end of the year, Shin also played the two big team events, the Kyoraku Cup and the Lexus Cup. She was surprisingly weak at the Kyoraku, losing both her matches, but made up for it at the Lexus, where she collected 2.5 points for team Asia. Shin finished the year ranked 8th in the world, the highest ranked Korean of all, and the only player not playing on the LPGA who ranked in the top ten.

2008
She started 2008 in brilliant fashion. She teamed with good friend Eun Hee Ji to represent Korea at the Women's World Cup. They started the week by teaming in best ball to shoot a mind boggling 61 to take the lead. They kept the lead or a share of it much of the rest of the week, eventually finishing second to the Philippines. Shin next played the Australian Ladies Open. On the final day, she shot a 67, at the time the best round of the week by anyone, to take a two shot clubhouse lead. It looked like she had the tournament wrapped up, but Karrie Webb charged from behind with two birdies on the final three holes and beat Shin in a two hole playoff. Shin followed this with a 6th place at the ANZ Ladies Masters.

Shin hardly slowed down for the rest of the year. By the third event of 2008 on the KLPGA, she already had two wins and had once again captured the money list lead. She also notched two top tens in LPGA events and played the Nabisco, where she had a mediocre finish by her standards. Shin also entered a new arena: the JLPGA tour. Playing her first event in Japan, the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup, Shin wound up in a playoff with a JLPGA player for the title, eventually winning in four holes. The win granted Shin membership on the JLPGA tour. She would play three more events on the JLPGA tour after that, including two Majors. She finished second all three times, losing two of them in playoffs. Not a bad average result, if a bit frustrating!

Shin also beat rookie star So Yeon Ryu in a playoff at the Korean Women's Open to capture the KLPGA's first Major event of the year. She would go on to win all three KLPGA Majors in 2008, beating Sun Ju Ahn by two shots at the KLPGA Championship and beating Ahn and rookie Hye Yong Choi in a playoff at the final Major, the 4th KB Star Tour Event. Needless to say, Shin was the first player to ever sweep the calendar year Grand Slam on the KLPGA tour. It was yet another phenomenal performance in a career full of them.

Meanwhile, further wins at the Hite Cup Championship and the BC Card Classic brought her season total on tour to 7 wins in 16 starts. This put her over 700 million won in earnings, breaking her own record for most money made in a season, and also brought her career win total on tour to 20, tying the all time record for most career wins on the KLPGA tour. And she still wasn't even 21 years old!

There was still one thing that Shin had not been able to accomplish, however, and that was win an event outside of Asia. 2008 saw her do that as well. Her high Rolex ranking allowed her to play in several Majors, but she did not do as well at the US Women's Open or Evian Masters as she had in 2007. But at the year's final Major, the Women's British Open, she put herself into contention off the bat, tying for 2nd after the first round. She was still in second place, just a shot behind Japanese star Yuri Fudoh, going into the final round. In the final round, Shin kept it close on the front nine, then played brilliantly on the back, grinding past Fudoh with a flawless 66 that included a magnificent 40 foot birdie putt on one hole. Shin strolled to her first Major win with a three stroke cushion. Shin became the first woman in more than 20 years to win an LPGA Major without being a member of the LPGA tour, and her win gained her membership on the LPGA and LET tours. So much for having to go to Q School!

Shin wasn't done yet; in November, she won the Mizuno Classic in Japan by 6 shots, capturing her second LPGA event of the year. And amazingly, she had even more heroics in store for 2008. At the year's final event, the ADT Championship, Shin made it into the final eight on Sunday, then outlasted Karrie Webb and Seon Hwa Lee to win her third title of the year and secure a million dollar payday. She became the first woman in in the history of the LPGA to win three LPGA events before joining the tour. She also became only the second Korean after Se Ri Pak to win more than twice in a single year on the LPGA, and she did it in only ten events played. If her money had been official, she would have been third on the money list.

Shin confirmed that she would be joining the LPGA as a rookie in 2009, instead of playing in Japan like she had originally planned. So at last Ji Yai Shin, the biggest phenom to hit Korea since Se Ri Pak, would be able to test herself on the big tour on a regular basis!

2009

Shin's LPGA rookie year did not disappoint. Although she did not contend and win nearly as often in 2009 as she had in previous years, she still had a fantastic year. Facing one of the toughest rookie classes in years, one that had three other players win events (including one who won twice including a Major), Jiyai (as she was now spelling her name) still easily won the Rookie of the Year award. She also became the first Korean to lead the season ending money list, in the process earning more money in a season than any Korean ever had (over $1.8 million). She also finished second in the Vare Trophy standings, and came tantalizingly close to winning the Player of the Year award. How close? Had she made a birdie instead of par on the final hole of the final round of the final event of the year, she would have won it. In fact, she led that race much of the season before falling to Lorena Ochoa in the end.

But though Shin did not become the first Korean to win the POY, she very nearly became the second player ever (after Nancy Lopez) to win all four major season ending awards. She won three tournaments in 2009 and garnered 12 top tens in all. She did not have a particularly great season at the Majors, but still finished third at the LPGA Championship, 8th at the British Open and 13th at the US Women's Open. In addition, she also won an event on the JLPGA tour and played on the winning Korean team at the Kyoraku Cup.

All in all, it was a fantastic debut for the young star, with the promise of much more great stuff to come!

2010

Jiyai had another fantastic season on the LPGA tour in 2010, although for the first time she found herself seriously challenged by another top Korean star, Na Yeon Choi. Shin made nearly $1.8 million on tour that year, but still finished behind Choi, who made roughly $100,000 more. She carded 14 top tens in 18 starts, 12 of which were top fives. She had top fives in three of the four Majors with a 14th at the Ricoh Women's British Open. Right until the end of the season, she could have won the Player of the Year award with a great final event, but had a rare bad tournament to fall out of the hunt.

Her success was all the more amazing because Jiyai had serious health issues in 2010. She was struck with appendicitis right in the middle of the season and was forced to take several weeks off to recover from the appendectomy. At her first event back, the LPGA Championship, she finished tied for third; she had a fifth at the Jamie Farr and a 5th at the US Women's Open in the following weeks.

Finally, she won her first LPGA event of the year at the Evian Masters. She was the first Korean to ever capture that event. It came down to a fierce battle, with several players in the hunt, including 15 year old Alexis Thompson and the aforementioned Choi. Shin hit her third shot on the final hole to ten feet, while Morgan Pressel, with whom she was tied for the lead, got a little closer. But Shin made the birdie, Pressel missed, and the title was Jiyai's. Shin would win her second LPGA title of the year at the Mizuno Classic in Japan, her second win there in three years.

Shin achieved yet another milestone in Japan. The event was the CyberAgent Ladies tournament on the JLPGA tour. Shin captured the crown and, when Lorena Ochoa failed to finish in the top five at the Tres Marias Championship later that day, Shin became the first Korean, male or female, to ascend to the #1 ranking in the world. Jiyai had a great year in Japan, finishing in the top five in 6 of the 7 events she played there.

She had another great moment at the KLPGA Championship, that tour's second Major. She won that event going away despite a stiff early challenge from Na Yeon Choi. It was a very emotional win for her, as it gave her victory #21, the all time career record for most wins on that tour. All over the world, on three tours, Shin was a superstar yet again in 2010, finishing the year as the top player in the world rankings.

2011

Shin started out 2011 as the top player in the world, but her attempts to lengthen her driving distance affected her during the year, and she had overall the weakest season she had had since turning pro. By the time the year was finished, she had fallen all the way to 7th in the world, and had not managed so much as a single victory on any tour during the entire year, a first for her since turning pro.

After three medicore tournaments to start the year, Shin finally hit her stride during the Kia Classic in late March. She was at or near the lead for most of the week, but Sandra Gal, a German pro who had yet to win on tour, hung with her doggedly the whole time. The Shin of old, the one who had earned the nickname the Final Round Queen, would have deep sixed Gal in the final round, but this Shin made numerous mistakes and allowed Gal to hang with her. On the final hole, a par 5, Shin and Gal were tied. Shin hit her approach to a few feet, but Gal striped hers to less than a foot. Shin then missed the almost-gimme to hand the title to Gal.

Shin had a few other top ten finishes in 2011, including another second place at the ShopRite. But she had only one top ten in a Major, and that was a tie for 10th at the US Women's Open. In total, she had 7 top tens and made $720,000, less than half what she had made in her two other seasons. Her scoring average was 4th in the league, but her money list finish only 15th. Shin had some good finishes in Japan, but was not able to win a tournament on the JLPGA, either.

2012

Jiyai Shin struggled with injuries during the 2012 season. She got hand surgery right in the heart of the season and missed several events, including two Majors. But when she returned, it didn't take her long to hit her stride again.

Shin started the year well, with a third place in Thailand and an 8th at the HSBC. But after the Match Play, she had her surgery, not returning until the Evian Masters in late July. At her next event, the Jamie Farr, she was tied for the lead going into the final round, but only ended up 7th. Two events later, at the Canadian Open, she was in the final group Sunday, but was unable to stop amateur buzzsaw Lydia Ko (she played in the same group as the teen). Shin finished third.

Bu Jiyai was just working the kinks out, and she won her next two events on tour. First came the Kingsmill Championship. Paula Creamer seemed to have this one wrapped up, but missed a short par save on the final hole to fall into a tie with Shin. She and Jiyai ended up in an epic 9-hole, two day sudden death playoff; it was the longest two person sudden death playoff in LPGA history. On Monday morning, Creamer three putted the first playoff hole of the day, and Shin got the win.

They immediately flew to Liverpool, site of the year's final Major, the Ricoh Women's British Open. Shin got there so late she was only able to play nine practice holes before the event started. The weather was brutal much of the week, but Shin was sensational. On the second day, she shot a surreal 8 under par 64 to seize the lead. The final day was a 36 hole marathon, but Shin played it even par to destroy the field by nine shots, the largest margin of victory in the event since it became a Major. Jiyai became the first Korean other than Se Ri to win multiple Majors, and the first to amass double digit wins on the LPGA other than the Hall-of-Famer Pak.

Although Shin did not win again in 2012, and she still struggled with health, she collected 8 top tens (including three thirds), and for a while led the scoring average on tour (but even if she had finished on top, she would not have been able to collect the Vare Trophy, because she did not play the minimum number of rounds). She earned $1.2 million on the year and finished 7th on the money list. She wound up 3rd in scoring average, 3rd in driving accuracy, 5th in greens in regulation, 3rd in sand saves, first in rounds under par and 6th in Player of the Year.

Off the LPGA, Shin played a few times in Japan but did not win. She won both her matches at the Korea-Japan Team competition, and finished third at the Swinging Skirts. She was in contention there until a late bogey knocked her one shot behind Na Yeon Choi (the eventual winner) and Theresa Lu.

2013

2013 was a strange year for the Final Round Queen. She started things off with a bang by winning her 11th LPGA event at the Australian Women's Open. The week began with teen wunderkind Lydia Ko going very low, but Shin kept pace with her, and they duked it out for the title in the final round. They were tied for the lead when Shin dunked a pitch from behind an advertising sign for a birdie. Jiyai went on to win, while Ko faded to third.

For her, that was the highlight of the year on the LPGA. While Inbee Park climbed to #1 and won the Player of the Year award, Shin had her worst season since joining the tour. She made only $600K and finished 22nd on the money list. She had four other top tens, including a 7th at the Nabisco and a 5th at the LPGA Championship. But she played only sporadically on the LPGA in the second half of the year, focusing on the JLPGA instead.

Shin has said that she plans to spend most of her time in Japan in 2014, and in fact some versions of the LPGA priority list show Shin completely absent from the list. She is not even scheduled to defend her title in Australia. When we confirm that she has in fact left the tour, we will change her status here, but that would be a very odd development indeed!

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