February 17, 2011 11:29
The Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association on Monday announced the schedule for the 2011 season, which is packed with 24 events and promises a record W13.6 billion prize money for participants (US$1=W1,120). That is two more events and W1.6 billion more prize money than last season.
The U.S. LPGA Tour holds just 13 out of 27 events this season in the U.S. and the rest in Asia and Europe. The new KLPGA tournament opened by Hanwha Group this season has a total of W1 billion prize money, the same amount as the men's most prestigious Korea Open.
The first professional women's golf tournament here took place in 1978, more as an accompanying event to the men's tournament. But with the emergence of Pak Se-ri and Kim Mi-hyun in the late 1990s, women's golf caught up. In 2010, the men’s tour in Korea was smaller than the women's, with 18 events and W11.8 billion prize money to the women's 22 events and W12 billion.
What is the secret to the rapid expansion despite the recession? Women's golf has become a national sport since Pak won the U.S. Women's Open in 1998, when the whole country was struggling with another economic crisis. In recent years, Shin Ji-yai and Choi Na-yeon won the money leader's title for two years in a row in the U.S. LPGA Tour, and Ahn Sun-ju topped the money list in the Japan LPGA Tour last year.
The generation who took up golf after watching Pak's success are not only good at golf but also have a great sense of fashion and media appeal. Seo Hee-kyung, Ahn Shin-ae, Hong Jin-joo and Kim Ha-neul even model for their clothing sponsors.
Recently, a number of banks and insurance companies have been establishing women’s golf teams, as it is thought to be a great way of promoting a company to have a few core players in the team.
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