Kim Hyo-joo, a teenage golfer who entered the spotlight after picking up titles on the Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Tours this year, has turned professional. She inked a two-year sponsorship deal with Lotte Group at Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong, Seoul, on Monday for a signing fee of W500 million and incentives based on her performance.
The deal, which includes the possibility of a one-year extension, is the largest for a rookie Korean golfer since Pak Se-ri signed a 10-year deal for W300 million a year in 1998.
Early this year, the sports marketing industry predicted she would sign for a fee of around W200 million. However, after a string of excellent performances in Japan and the United States, Kim attracted fierce competition from large corporations. At one point, her estimated value rose above W500 million.
Under the deal with Lotte, if Kim finishes within the top five in any event she enters, she is eligible for a bonus worth up to 70 percent of the tournament's prize money. This means she can net nearly W1.5 billion next season if she can replicate this year's success.
Kim will make her professional debut in the KEB-Hana Bank Championship on the Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon on Friday, which is co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour.
"I'll do my best to live up to people's high expectations and all the attention everyone has given me. As a professional golfer, I hope to constantly push the limits in terms of setting new records and racking up great performances, rather than simply focusing on prize money," said Kim.