Updated: Jan, 2014

HEE YOUNG PARK

The Facts

Birthday: May 24, 1987
Rookie Year on KLPGA: 2005
Rookie Year on LPGA: 2008
Birthplace: South Korea
LPGA Wins: 2
Best LPGA Major Finish: T-2nd (2013 Ricoh Women's British Open)
Best Score: 61 (2013 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic)
Best Scoring Average for a year: 71.07 (2013)
Best Season money total:
$851,781 (2011)
Best Season Money Position:
10th (2013)
Most Top Tens/Season:
6 (2009, 2010)

Rookie of the Year finish: 3rd

Height: 5' 6"
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1
Known Relatives: Ju Young (younger sister)
Nicknames: Rocket, HYP
Sponsors: Hana Bank, Elord
How's her English?: Good
Hobbies: Shopping, yoga, watching TV
Road to the LPGA: Finished 3rd at 2007 Q-School to earn exempt status

Capsule Bio

Hee Young Park was a rookie on the KLPGA tour in 2005. She played very well all year on tour, but many expected the Rookie of the Year would be the more well known Na Yeon Choi. When Hee Young won the PAVV Invitational, one of the more prominent events on the KLPGA tour, however, she moved to the front of the Rookie of the Year standings. The win was an impressive one: among the top LPGA golfers she beat were Meena Lee, Soo-Yun Kang (the defending champ), Jeong Jang, Laura Diaz and Carin Koch.

Hee Young was just getting started. A few months later, she finished 4th at the CJ 9 Bridges Classic, beating a gaggle of top LPGA talent including world #1 Annika Sorenstam. She played the final day with LPGA Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer, but beat her by 6 shots in the tough conditions (73-79). Not surprisingly, Hee Young went on to win the KLPGA's Rookie of the Year trophy.

How much respect did Hee Young get from her fellow pros? When 50 KLPGA members were asked to name the best swings among all Korean players, Hee Young's was picked as the best, beating Michelle Wie, Se Ri Pak and other top stars.

When the KLPGA season started anew in 2006, it took her all of one tournament to notch her first win of the year. She won the Phoenix Park Classic in late April to take the early money list lead. She followed that with a second win at the Lake Hills Classic a few months later. This put her atop the KLPGA money list. But after that, she started to play more inconsistently, at a time when rookie star Ji Yai Shin was playing well virtually every week. In the end, Shin ran away with the money list title (and just about every other award in 2006), but Park had a very respectable second place finish on the money list. She ended her year playing well at the team event called the Kyoraku Cup, notching a win and a close loss in two matches.

Galleries

2007 Photos
2006 Photos
Images
Seoul Sisters Pix

In 2007, she had a decent season on the KLPGA, although it was her weakest season since joining the tour. She was not able to collect a win all year, although she did come up with three runner up finishes. Perhaps the most painful of these came at the second KB Star Tour event. She had a two stroke lead at one point in the final round, when her caddie noticed that her playing partner, Eun Hee Ji, had left one of her clubs by the green. Her caddie picked it up and put it into Hee Young's bag. A few holes later, Ji noticed the club was missing and spotted it in Park's bag. She called a two stroke penalty on Park for having too many clubs in her bag. As it turned out, Ji and Park wound up in a playoff, which Ji won; but if it had not been for the penalty, which Ji called on Park, Park would have been the victor. Sometimes it doesn't pay to do someone a favor!

Park finished in the top five at her LPGA Q-School sectional that Fall, then played brilliantly in the finals, eventually finishing third to earn her exempt card for 2008. She was the only exempt Korean rookie on tour that year.

In 2008, Hee Young had a pretty decent campaign, although she was overshadowed by her fellow KLPGA refugee Na Yeon Choi. Still, she played quite well, easily maintaining her exempt status, and notching her career best Major finish at the British Open besides. She also signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Hana Bank and Elord in 2008.

Hee Young's second year on tour was significantly better than her first. She made more top tens (6), earned over $600,000 for the year, and finished 20th on the money list. Among the highlights was her 2nd place finish in Thailand. That event almost turned out very differently: she was deathly ill in round one, shot a 79, and ended up in the hospital. The next day, however, she shot a 64, her best ever score, and ended the week behind only world number one Lorena Ochoa.

Park had a tie for second in Japan as well, and a tie for fifth at the season ending Tour Championship. She also had her two best Major finishes, a tie for 9th at the US Women's Open and a tie for 11th at the Ricoh British Open. She still had a tendency to shoot a great round followed by a not so good one, but at least her overall results were getting better and better.

At the end of the year, her chief sponsor Hana Bank published a golf lesson book featuring her and In Kyung Kim. It was sold in stores in Korea and given away to valued customers of the bank.

In 2010, Park was not quite as impressive as she had been the previous year, although she still had several highlights. She had 6 top tens in total, with her best finish being a tie for 4th at the State Farm Classic. That event saw her shoot a final round 63, her best ever score, to lose to Cristie Kerr by 2 shots. In the end, she finished 34th on the money list, easily maintaining category 1 status for 2011.

Meanwhile, Hee Young had another thrill in 2010: her younger sister Choo Young qualified for the KLPGA and joined the tour as a rookie. Hee Young even got to watch Choo Young play in one event, cheering her on from the sidelights. If she ever makes it to the LPGA, they will be the first Korean sisters to play on tour since the Song sisters, Aree and Naree (who were half Korean, half Thai).

Hee Young finished the year by attending JLPGA Qualifying School. She ended up winning medalist honors with an 11 under par total, 2 shots ahead of second place Shanshan Feng of China. So she has full membership on both the LPGA and JLPGA for 2011, and will presumably split her time between those two tours.

Hee Young had a mediocre start to her 2011 season. She did not have a top 30 finish until late June when she finished 14th at the LPGA Championship. But she caught fire in the second half of the year. In August, she was tied for the lead on the final hole of the Safeway Classic, and just needed a birdie to win or par to enter a playoff. But she made bogey to finish third, a sad end to her best chance yet to win her first LPGA event. But there was an upside: her finish qualified her for the season ending tour championship.

The next week, she finished tied for 12th at the Canadian Women's Open, and notched two more top 12 finishes in the coming weeks. Then came the CME Group Titleholders, the tour championship that her Safeway finish had qualified her for. She played great golf, finishing her third round with several impressive birdies to move into the lead. On the final day, she kept her head, despite having several of the top players in the world breathing down her neck. It all came down to a chip shot on the 18th hole. Had she made bogey there, she may have lost. But this time she hit a fantastic up and down, and at last, after four years on tour, she collected her first LPGA trophy!! The win netted her $500,000, one of the biggest checks ever earned by a Korean golfer, and moved her to 12th on the money list, by far her best finish.

Hee Young didn't win in 2012, but she still had a pretty decent season. She notched five top tens on the year and made more than $400,000, finishing 34th on the money list. Among her best results were a tie for 7th at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in Korea, and a 5th at the RR Donnelly.

2013 was the best year for the Rocket yet. She had two great highlights. She collected her second career win at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in July. This was a very low scoring event, and Park was up for the challenge. She shot a 61, her all time best, in round 3. In round 4, she made a heap of birdies at the end of the round to force a playoff with Angela Stanford after both went 26 under par total (an all time low score on the LPGA for the Korean golfers). The playoff took three holes; Park made three more birdies and the trophy was hers.

Hee Young's other great event came shortly thereafter at the Women's British Open. Earlier in the year, Hee Young finished 7th at the Nabisco for her best ever Major finish. She was never in contention there, but at St. Andrews in August, she was right in the hunt until the end. Her playing partner Stacy Lewis made two birdies on the final two holes to eliminate Hee Young, but she still finished tied for second with old rival Na Yeon Choi, by far her best Major result to date.

Hee Young had two more top four finishes and wound up 10th on the tour money list with close to $850,000 earned. It was her first top ten on the money list. She ended the year 18th in the Rolex rankings.

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