Updated: January, 2014

SO YEON RYU

The Facts

Birthday: June 29, 1990
Rookie Year on LPGA: 2012
Birthplace: South Korea
KLPGA Rookie Year: 2008
LPGA Wins: 2
LPGA Major Wins: 1
(2011 US Women's Open)
Rookie of the Year Finish: Won!
Best Score: 62 (2012 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic)
Best Scoring Average: 70.29 (2013)
Best Season Money Total: $1,282,673 (2012)
Best Season Money List Position:
5th (2013)
Most Top Tens/Season: 16 (2012)

Height: 5' 6"
Family: Younger sister
Post Season Awards: 2012 Rookie of the Year
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1
Nicknames: None Known
Sponsors: Hana Bank
How's her English?: Very good
Road to the LPGA: Won the 2011 US Women's Open to earn status on the 2012 LPGA tour.

Capsule Bio

So Yeon Ryu was one of three Korean girls representing South Korea in golf at the Asian Games in 2006. The Games take place every four years, like the Olympics. Virtually every sport imaginable is played at these games, including sports like golf that are not part of the Olympic games. Countries from all over Asia field teams.

In 2002, the Japanese junior sensation Ai Miyazato won the individual gold in the women's golf event. In 2006, South Korea dominated. Ryu won both the individual gold and helped her team to win the team gold as well. Ryu not only won, she dominated. She shot 66-66-64-67 for a 29 under par total and a nine shot victory.

In 2007, Ryu powered the Korean squad to a mind boggling 20 stroke victory in the Queen Sirikit Cup, a women's amateur team stroke play golf event featuring 13 teams from Pacific Rim countries. Ryu also won individual honors with a 12 under par total for the week, six shots ahead of her teammate Hye Yong Choi and 12 shots ahead of the third place woman. It was Korea's 10th win in 30 stagings of the event.

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So Yeon also played in the 2007 US Women's Amateur, but though she was 4th in the stroke play section, she was eliminated in the first round of match play.

In late 2007, at 17 years of age, Ryu turned pro. In February of 2008, she played in a professional event on the minor league Cactus Tour and won by six shots. She then joined the KLPGA tour and made an immediate impact. How immediate? She won the very first event she played in 2008, the Sports Seoul Open, with her arch rookie rival Choi finishing second, four shots back. She didn't play quite that well the next few events, however.

But when Ryu returned to contending, she did it with a bang. At the Korean Women's Open, the most important event of the year, Ryu found herself in a dogfight for the title with KLPGA superstar Ji Yai Shin. Going into the final nine, Ryu had carved out a four shot lead. But Shin was relentless, and by the 17th hole had caught the rookie star. Ryu eventually lost a three hole playoff to Shin. It was a bitter disappointment, but still a second place finish at a Major, hardly a bad result.

The loss started a string of nine straight top tens, including two more seconds and a third. Hye Yong Choi had several second place finishes herself during that span, but Ryu maintained her lead in the Rookie of the Year race. When Choi finally won her first event, the LotteMart Ladies Open, ironically it was Ryu who finished second.

As the year wound on, however, Choi continued to play well, while Ryu faded somewhat. A pivotal moment came at the year's third Major, the 4th KB Star Tour Event. Ryu was playing well when she made an illegal drop from a bunker and was disqualified. Choi, meanwhile, charged from behind, eventually losing a playoff to Shin. Her second place finish allowed her to pass Ryu in the Rookie standings.

Ryu and Choi both played well at the Saint Four Ladies Masters, an event co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour. Ryu wound up losing the Rookie of the Year title to Choi, although she had a chance until the final event to win it.

In December, Ryu was one of five top stars who appeared in a dance number (!) at the KLPGA Awards show.

Ryu started her 2009 season with a bang by finishing tied for 2nd at the ANZ Ladies Masters, her best showing outside of Korea since turning pro. She missed the cut at her first LPGA event played in the States, the JGolf event in Phoenix, but that proved to be only a momentary blip in a great year.

The start of the KLPGA season was dominated by Hee Kyung Seo, who won the first Major of the year. But Ryu kicked her season into high gear at the Doosan Match Play Championship. She gradually worked her way through the field, winning three sudden death playoffs on the way to the finals. Once there, she faced her arch rival He Yong Choi in a match for the ages. Tied after 18 holes, they played 9 more sudden death holes before Ryu finally captured the win, 7 hours and 11 minutes after they started. No one worked harder in 2009 to get a win than that.

The win sparked Ryu to brilliant heights. Just two events later, she won again, then racked up two more straight wins to become one of the few in KLPGA history to score three straight victories. She took over the money list and Player of the Year lead from Seo, and the two would spend much of the rest of the year duking it out for those titles. Seo finally secured the title when Ryu lost a playoff at the penultimate event of the year. But Ryu still made nearly 600 million won and finished second on the money list, second in Player of the Year points and third in scoring average. Without any question, in 2009 Ryu established herself as a bonified superstar.

In December, Ryu and Seo clashed again at the China Ladies Open, the first event of the 2010 season. Seo led going into the final round, but Ryu caught her and forced a playoff, winning after three holes. Amazingly, it was Ryu's last win on the KLPGA tour that season. She had several great chances to win during the year, but something always happened to short circuit her. Sometimes she would have a few bad holes at the wrong time, other times another player suddenly got hot and overtook her. But though she would not be the Player of the Year in 2010, she did have great results anyway: she made nearly 400 million won and finished 4th on the money list. Overall she had 14 top tens, which included an agonizing three seconds. She also had her first professional missed cut, and a total of 5 finishes outside the top twenty during the season.

Ryu got off to a strong start in the 2011 season. In the very first KLPGA event of the year, the 2010 China Ladies Open, she was in contention right until the end, but carded yet another second, losing to Hye Youn Kim. But after that start, she found herself struggling to make top tens for the next few months. At the Lotte Cantata Open, she was four shots back after two rounds, and it did not look like she would be a factor in the outcome. But she blitzed the field in the final round with a sizzling 64 to cruise to her first win in a year and a half.

As great as that result felt, it paled before what happened to Ryu early in July in Colorado Springs, CO. She was playing in the US Women's Open thanks to her top five finish on the KLPGA tour the previous year. After two rounds, she was in decent position. Rain had caused numerous delays, and she was forced to play nearly two full rounds on Sunday. By the end of the day, thanks to her brilliant play, she found herself a shot out of the lead with three holes to play. The leader? None other than her old rival Hee Kyung Seo, who was a rookie on the LPGA tour that season.

On Monday morning, Ryu had three holes to try to catch Seo and win the Major. She scrambled to an up and down on the 16th hole. On the par 5 17th, she had a great birdie chance, but burned the edge on her putt. That left her just one more chance to catch Seo. On the 18th hole, she hit a great drive, then a superlative iron that rolled to five feet. The putt was a tricky one, but she nailed it, forcing the three hole aggregate playoff with her friend. It was the first time ever that a Major featured a playoff between Koreans.

In the extra holes, Ryu played the same three holes she had just completed and dominated Seo. After both made par on 16, Ryu made birdie on 17 while Seo bogied. Then Ryu hit her approach on 18 even closer than she had an hour earlier, making a third birdie in the six holes she had played on this day to beat Seo by three shots. Ryu became the third youngest woman to ever win the title, behind Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park. She also became only the second Korean to win membership on the LPGA tour by capturing a Major (Jiyai Shin had been the first), and the first Korean to win that membership at the US Women's Open, the biggest women's golf event in the world.

Ryu decided she would join the LPGA in 2012, but there was still unfinished business in Korea. She still had yet to win a Major over there, and also wanted to finish atop the money list. But though she led the money list much of the season, she was not able to reach that goal, finishing third behind Ha Neul Kim. She also came up short at the Majors; her best finish there was a third place at the KLPGA Championship. But regardless of that, Ryu's 2011 had been a brilliant breakthrough for her. She finished the year with a tie for second at an Invitational event in Taiwan that featured many of the top golfers in the world (she was tied with Jiyai Shin and ahead of Na Yeon Choi).

Ryu's 2012 was brilliant from start to finish. Even before she played on the LPGA, she shot a 61 at the RACV Australian Ladies Masters en route to a second place finish. In her very first LPGA event (the Australian Women's Open), she had a four foot putt to win, but missed it and lost in a playoff. Over the next few tournaments, she added three more 4th place finishes and a 5th. Before even the second Major had been played, Ryu was already dominating the Rookie of the Year race.

In all, So Yeon racked up an impressive 16 LPGA top ten finishes in 2012, 12 of which were top fives. It was one of the most impressively consistent rookie campaigns a Korean had ever had. Some of the highlights include just missing a playoff at the Manulife Financial, two fifth place finishes in Malaysia and Taiwan, and a fifth place at the British Women's Open in September.

So Yeon had a number of great chances to win, but only grabbed one trophy, at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. She started the final round tied with three other Korean stars - IK Kim, Hee Kyung Seo and Jiyai Shin - but shot a blistering final round 62 to run away with a seven shot victory. Her 62 tied the record for lowest score ever shot in the final round to win a tournament. The other four women who share that record are all Hall-Of-Famers!

Besides the Aussie Open and the Manulife, Ryu's other best chances to win came at the Safeway Classic and the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Ryu lost a tight battle with old rival Mika Miyazato at the Safeway, finishing 4th. At the CME, she battled Na Yeon Choi the entire last day, but a couple of crucial mistakes cost her, and she finished second to the Korean star.

Ryu wound up winning the Rookie of the Year award, an award that had eluded her on the KLPGA tour, with an incredible 1,448 points. She beat runner-up Lexi Thompson by over 600 points, and was more than a thousand points ahead of the third place woman. She was 6th on the money list and second in scoring average behind Inbee Park. Among her other statistical achievements: 2nd in putting/green in regulation, 3rd in rounds under par, 2nd in birdies, and 5th in Player of the Year.

And that wasn't all! Ryu also won her 8th KLPGA victory at the Hanwha Classic, her sponsor's tournament! In December, she won both of her matches at the Korea-Japan Team competition, and finished tied for third at the Swinging Skirts event to end her year. She finished this epic season ranked 7th in the world rankings, well above her position at the start of the year, when she was outside the top 20.

So Yeon had an excellent 2013 season. Although she would not win a tournament, she stll made almost exactly the same amount as she had in 2012, while finishing slightly higher on the money list (5th). Her world ranking climbed as high as 4th due to her extreme consistency, which saw her notch ten top tens. Ryu had top four finishes in three of the five Majors, and had a good shot at a top ten at the British as well, but faded in the last few holes. She shot a final round 65 for a solo second at the Nabisco, and was one of only three players under par at the US Women's Open. But the Major she had the best chance to win was the Evian: she was in contention on Sunday, but just couldn't make the charge she needed and finished tied for 4th.

She had several other good chances for wins that fell short. At the Walmart NW Arkansas in June, she made a four putt late to fall into a tie with good friend Inbee Park, who ended up winning the playoff. She duked it out with Lydia Ko at the year ending Swinging Skirts, but another four putt dropped her below the teen prodigy and she finished second. Her most painful near miss came in defense of her Hanwha Classic title on the KLPGA. She had the lead for several days, and was 6 up with 10 to play. But then Sei Young Kim went on an amazing streak of skill and uncanny luck. She jarred an eagle on 9 from over 100 yards, then, on the 17th hole, made a hole in one! The result was a playoff which Ryu lost.

Regardless of her setbacks, So Yeon had a fantastic season, and has now established herself as the second best Korean in the rankings behind Inbee. 2014 ought to be very interesting for the young star!

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