Golfer Lee Bo-mee Strikes Gold in Japan

Lee Bo-mee Lee Bo-mee

Female golfers are having a harder time finding sponsors this year as more corporations tighten their belts amid the prolonged recession, but at least one has hit the jackpot.

Lee Bo-mee, who claimed five wins on the LPGA of Japan Tour from 2012 to 2013, recently signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola Japan.

Lee's mother declined to give the details of the deal, but added that Lee will earn over W1 billion a year if all her sponsorship contracts are combined. This puts Lee in the top ranks of golfers on the Japanese tour in terms of endorsements.

Her situation compares favorably with the likes of Kim Hyo-joo and Kim Ja-young, who each signed lucrative deals worth W400 million to W500 million (US$1=W1,081) a year in 2013. She is also a step ahead of former world No. 1 Shin Ji-yai, who recently saw her contract with Mirae Asset end, as well as young golfers like Yang Soo-jin and Ahn Shin-ae, who are both struggling to attract main sponsors.

The contract proves how much success Lee has achieved in Japan in the last three years, where she has won over fans not only with her golf skills but also her good looks and attitude.

"My fans often tell me that they like me because I laugh a lot and always keep smiling and appear calm," Lee, who is currently training in Palm Springs, California, told the Chosun Ilbo.

Lee is aiming to become the first female golfer to top the money lists on both the Korean and Japanese tours this season. Since making her debut in Japan in 2010, she ranked second in 2012 and seventh in 2013 on the money list in the island nation.

However, a new rival has emerged as Shin Ji-ae, who is the same age as Lee, has now set herself the formidable goal of sweeping the money titles in Japan, Korea and the U.S. Like Lee, she said she will focus her energies on tournaments in Japan this year.

"There are many outstanding Korean and Japanese golfers on the Japan Tour. Shin is not my only rival," said Lee.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 05, 2014 10:08 KST