Lee is a young phenomenon that had a lot of success on the KLPGA
tour, and thus came over in 2004 to try the American circuit. Lee
created something of a sensation in Korea when she turned pro at
the tender age of 14 years and 2 months. She showed it was a good
decision when she won her first pro event shortly after her 15th
birthday, the 2001 McSquare Championship, thus becoming the youngest
player ever to win on the KLPGA tour. She also won the 2003 HiMart
Championship in Korea, and made 7 tops tens in total that year.
That was good enough to allow her to finish third on the KLPGA money
list, ahead of players like Mi Na Lee, Il Mi Chung and Shi Hyun
qualified her to be on the 2003 Pinx Cup team, the annual Korea
vs. Japan team competition. And she did not disappoint. On a team
that featured such superstars as Se Ri Pak, Grace Park, Mi Hyun
Kim and Hee-Won Han, Lee was one of the few players who won both
her matches, even more surprising when you consider she was the
youngest player on the team. She was very likely the MVP, although
veteran Woo-Soon Ko beat her out for the official honor.
just turned 18, Lee came over to play on the Futures Tour, and has
immediately had success. In her first three starts, she managed
two seconds and a 7th, and quickly rose to second on the money list
(and was first for a time). She looked good to win her exempt card
for the LPGA tour in 2005, but faded towards the end of the season.
She then failed to get status at 2004 Q-School.
proved but a minor setback for Lee. In 2005, she played brilliantly
on the Futures Tour, making all 18 cuts, grabbing 13 top tens, 7
top threes, and her first win at the Albany FUTURES Pro Golf Classic
in Albany, N.Y. She ended up finishing atop the Futures Tour money
list, earning an exempt LPGA tour card for 2006.
that, she played a few events on the KLPGA tour. Despite only competing
in 5 of 11 events, she finished third on the KLPGA money list for
2006, Seon Hwa Lee shocked everyone with the brilliance of her rookie
season on the LPGA. She almost made a top ten in her first event;
in her second, she nearly won, losing in a playoff to Meena Lee.
The next event, she again finished second, this time to Annika Sorenstam.
She notched a third second at the Takefuji Classic a few months
later. By this time, she was blowing away the other more highly
touted rookies in her class for the Rookie of the Year title. And
when she wasn't contending, she was still collecting top twenties.
the ShopRite Classic in June, she again found herself facing Annika
for the victory. This time it was Lee who came out on top, playing
a virtually flawless final round (a 63) to leave the field in the
dust. It was just her 12th LPGA tournament.
Hwa went on to easily win the LPGA's Rookie of the Year award, becoming
the fifth Korean in the past nine years to do so. She also went
the entire season without missing a cut.
distinguished herself yet again at the Lexus Cup at the end of the
year. She won all three matches she played, including the one that
gave the victory to Asia in the event. She played decently to start
the 2007 season, but was not really able to get in contention early
in the year. But just like at the Lexus Cup, match play golf again
proved her strong point later in the year when she won the HSBC
Women's World Match Play, one of the most difficult titles to win
on tour. The victory vaulted her into the top ten on the money list
and once again made her one of the elite on the LPGA tour.
ended up breaking a million dollars in a year for the first time
in her career, and finished 5th on the money list, her best to date.
She played at both the Kyoraku and Lexus Cups, and was undefeated
in both, bringing her match play record for 2007 to 9-0.
Seon Hwa won the Match Play in July, the Koreans on the LPGA went
into a prolonged winning drought. Week after week, they would come
close to getting a title, only to come up short in the end. That
drought finally ended in June of 2008, and the player who ended
it was none other than Seon Hwa. She entered the final round of
the Ginn Tribute 9 shots behind Sophie Gustafson. But in one of
the greatest comebacks in LPGA history, she roared by the struggling
Swede, finishing her day with a spectacular forty foot birdie on
the last hole. Eventually, Karrie Webb made her own long birdie
to tie Lee and force a playoff. But Seon Hwa, so strong in match
play golf, also proved too tough for the Australian here, winning
her third LPGA event in grand style.
a month later, at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, the leaderboard
was littered with Korean golfers. Seon Hwa emerged from the pack
and, with a birdie on the final hole, took the clubhouse lead. Eventually,
the only player who had a chance to tie her was Meena Lee, who had
beaten Seon Hwa in a playoff in 2006, in just Seon Hwa's second
ever LPGA event. This time, however, Meena could not make the putt,
and Seon Hwa claimed her second win of 2008 and fourth in her career.
Hwa also had a great record at the Majors in '08. She claimed her
first ever top five in a Major at the Nabisco, had a 10th at the
LPGA Championship and a 14th at the British. Although she became
more erratic in the late summer and fall, she still had put together
an impressive run in her third season on tour.
her best season in 2008, 2009 was a bit of a letdown. She finished
outside the top 20 on the money list for the first time, making
less than half what she had made in 2008. She had no great Major
results, and failed to win during the entire season, her first winless
year on the LPGA tour. Her scoring average was still decent, however,
and she did have five top tens, including a near win at the Jamie
Farr in July and a tie for 10th in her defense of her P & G
title. She wound up 28th on the money list for the year.
the end of the year, Seon Hwa entered Japanese LPGA Qualifying School.
She succeeded in earning a card on the JLPGA for 2010.
2010, Lee split her time between the LPGA and JLPGA tours. By and
large her JLPGA results were not that impressive. Meanwhile, on
the LPGA, she only earned one top ten all year, at the P & G
NW Arkansas Championship, an event she has won in the past. Lee
finished 42nd on the LPGA money list, even lower than her 2009 campaign.
2011 season saw Lee continue her downward trajectory. She managed
only a single top ten all year, and that was a ninth place finish.
She made less than $100,000 in a season for the first time in her
LPGA career. Fortunately, she finished 71st on the money list and
thus maintained full status on tour for 2012.
next year, Lee had another weak season. She managed only one top
30 finish before missing the cut at the US Women's Open. This was
her last event of the year; she was forced to bow out due to lower
back/hip problems. She received a medical exemption from the tour
and will retain full membership for the 2013 season.
Hwa struggled mightily in 2013. She only made three cuts and did
not play at all past August. She even contemplated returning to
the KLPGA for 2014. But she did great at Q-School, finishing tied
for 6th to earn full status for 2014. However, in 2014 she once
again had a weak year. She did not play at all past June, and made
only $20K. It seems like medical problems still dog her, although
this is not confirmed.
was more of the same. She played no events past March, and her only
made cut was a tie for 45th. Lee has now sunk to category 18 status
did not play at all on the LPGA in 2016. She played a lot on the
KLPGA, but her best finishes were a pair of 22nd places. She wound
up 81st on the money list with just 59,163,500 won earned.
Hwa continued to focus on the KLPGA in 2017, but she had better
results. In fact, she appeared from time to time on leaderboards,
and in the case of the ADT-CAPS, even led after the first round.
She didn't manage to win any tournaments, but she finished 53rd
on the money list, more than well enough to keep her playing privileges.
Her best finish, and only top ten, was a 6th place finish at the
SK Telecom Seoul Economic Ladies Classic.