Jang started playing golf late, at the age of 13. Like her fellow
Daejeon native Se Ri Pak (whom she knew quite well when they were
both junior players), she quickly became one of the top amateur
players in the country. Among her big early successes was a victory
at the 1997 Korean Open and membership on the 1998 World Amateur
Championship team, representing Korea; she also finished fourth
individually in that event.
1999, she came over to America to try her luck on the LPGA. Only
19, she qualified for the tour on her first try. Her rookie year
of 2000 was a fairly successful one. She managed 5 top tens, including
a second place at the Safeway Championship (which I saw!). In this
tournament, JJ was vaulted into the lead when Mi Hyun Kim had a
triple bogey on the second to last hole. But Mi Hyun managed a clutch
birdie on 18, and then beat her good friend Jang in a playoff after
several more holes. Jang also had a 65, her career best score, in
next couple of years, she struggled to match the form she showed
in 2000. In 2001 she had some injuries from practicing too much
(sounds like the kind of injury a Korean player would get!). She
only managed a single top ten. 2002 was a bit of a comeback year
for her. The highlight of the year was no doubt her great fourth
place finish at the British Open, which included a fantastic 66
on the third day. This contributed to her career best money total,
and a finish of 34th on the money list.
proved an even better year for JJ. She managed top 21 finishes in
all four Majors, and was in position to contend at the US Women's
Open on Sunday when a disastrous 8 on a par 3 hole scuttled her
chances. She still wound up 6th, however. That and 5 other top tens
contributed to her career bests in scoring average and position
on the money list (25th).
good as 2003 was, 2004 was a real breakout year for Jeong. She managed
an impressive 9 top tens during the year, and once again notched
top 25 finishes in all four Majors. She had by far her best finish
on the money list, 12th, which was only one spot behind Se Ri Pak
in 2004. She also had her second career 2nd place finish, broke
her best professional round by three shots when she shot a 62 at
the Longs Drugs Challenge, and had her first sub-71 scoring average
for a season. Indeed, you could argue that she established herself
as an elite player on tour with her performance in 2004.
as great as her 2004 season was, her 2005 season was far, far better.
Although her scoring average was not quite as good, she improved
in almost every other category. She credited her improvement to
a new, intense workout regimen that saw her driving distance increase
noticeably. Thanks in part to that, in 2005 she notched an incredible
15 top tens, 8 of which were top fives. She put herself in contention
often. She broke a million dollars in earnings for the season and
finished fifth on the money list for the year, making her the top
Korean on tour in 2005. Most notably of all, she won her first event,
and it was a doozy: the 2005 Women's Weetabix British Open, the
final Major of the year. Thus she joined Se Ri Pak, Grace Park and
Birdie Kim as the only Koreans to ever win Majors. She also led
Korea to a second place finish in the Women's World Match play event,
and contributed to Korea's tie with Japan in the Pinx Cup at the
end of the year.
2006, JJ picked up where she left off, playing perhaps a little
worse on average, but still putting together a fair number of good
finishes. But for a long while, she seemed unable to get that second
win. At the ShopRite she played well, but nobody was going to beat
Seon Hwa Lee that week. She had a three shot lead at Corning going
into the final round, but had a terrible Sunday and finished out
of the Hee-Won Han/Meena Lee playoff. Her luck finally turned around
at the Wegman's LPGA. She hung back the first two rounds, but on
day three she surged to the lead, then battled tenacious rookie
Brittany Lang on Sunday, coming out eventually with her second win.
in 2006, JJ achieved another milestone. Invited to play in the Japan
Women's Open, a major on the JLPGA tour, she won in wire to wire
fashion. She was one of the few in the field who handled the terrible
conditions the players faced, conditions similar to the ones she
had dealt with at the 2005 British Open. She ended up collecting
14 top tens on the LPGA tour in 2006, the most of any Korean player.
JJ continued to be one of the very best Korean golfers in the world
for a second straight year.
started 2007 off more slowly than she had in years past. Her putting,
normally one of her strengths, was the main culprit. But as the
summer progressed, she started to return to form: she garnered a
top five in defense of her title at Wegman's, made a top ten at
the US Women's Open, and nearly won the Evian Masters, losing in
a playoff. Once again, she was among the top Koreans on tour.
started slowly again in 2007; she did not make her second top ten
until she defended her title in Rochester in late June. She did
not do that well at the Majors, other than the US Women's Open,
where she finished tied for eighth. But she did much better in the
second half of the year. The highlight was when she got into a playoff
for the title at the Evian Masters, losing to Natalie Gulbis on
the first playoff hole. She would not win during the season for
the first time since 2004, but still made over a million bucks and
finished 7th on the money list.
also played on the Kyoraku and Lexus Cup teams. At the Kyoraku,
the two teams were tied at the end of the week, requiring a playoff.
On the third playoff hole, JJ needed to make a short par save to
keep the match going, but missed, allowing Japan to capture the
cup for the first time in years.
2008, JJ struggled with a persistent wrist problem that greatly
hampered her all season. Doctors were worried about operating on
it, for fear of making things worse. Despite these problems, she
had another strong season. She nearly won the second event of the
year, finishing second, and had three more straight top three finishes
in May, narrowly missing collecting her third and possibly fourth
victories during that stretch. In the end, she did not win in 2008,
but still made over a million dollars for the year and finished
12th on the money list, the best finish for a veteran Korean in
2009, JJ finally took time off to get that much needed wrist operation.
As a result, she missed much of the season. She was back in action
in time for the Wegman's in Rochester in June. She only played a
few events the rest of the season, her best finish being a 12th
place in Portland. She was back on tour full time in 2010, but the
wrist still periodically caused her trouble. Still, she made enough
money to finish 41st on the money list, easily recapturing full
status on tour. Her best result came at the Evian Masters, where
she finished 8th.
missed the entire 2011 season, but it was far from an uneventful
year for her. In April, she married Lee Jun Sik, a former Korean
PGA member who had retired from the game to become a golf instructor.
A few months later, they announced that they were expecting, and
the happy couple had a daughter, Seul Samantha Lee, in late October.
JJ took the rest of the year off to take care of her new bundle
played a few times in 2012 when she was not suffering from a wrist
problem or taking care of her newborn son. She achieved three top
15s as her best finishes and made about $100,000 all year, finishing
78th on the money list. She maintained her full status for 2013.
2013, JJ made only five cuts all year, although one of those was
a top five at the ShopRite Classic. She finished 91st on the money
list, good only for partial status for 2014. JJ finally called it
quits in 2014, retiring from the game. Ironically, she played her
final event at the Portland Classic, an event she had contended
at several times without winning. Her final round was the same day
as another longtime Korean star, Hee-Won Han, who retired as well.
of luck to JJ and her family in the future!