Updated: Jan, 2014

HEE KYUNG SEO

The Facts

Birthday: July 8, 1986
Rookie Year: 2011
Birthplace: South Korea
Best LPGA Finish: Win (2010 Kia Classic)
Best LPGA Major Finish: 2nd (2011 US Women's Open)
Best score: 65 (4 times)
Best Scoring Average for a year: 71.57 (2012)
Best Season money total: $619,429 (2011)
Best Season Money Position: 21st (2011)
Most Top Tens/Season: 8 (2012)

Rookie of the Year Finish: Won it!

Height: 5' 7"
Family: Husband (Phil Kook)
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1
Post Season Awards: 2011 Rookie of the Year
Nicknames: Supermodel of the Fairways
Sponsors: Hite/Jinro, Beanpole Golf
How's her English?: Good
Hobbies: Unknown
Road to the LPGA: Won the 2010 Kia Classic to earn category 7 membership for 2011

Capsule Bio

Hee Kyung Seo joined the KLPGA in 2006. She had a solid rookie campaign, highlighted by a top 20 at the LPGA event in Korea, the Kolon-Hana Bank Championship, and a third place finish at the year's final event, the ADT-CAPS Championship.

2007 was an even better year, particularly the latter half, where she had a run of five straight top tens at one point. She wound up with 7 top tens in total and finished 9th on the money list.

During the off season, Seo practiced frequently with her good friend, KLPGA superstar Ji Yai Shin. She was so impressed by how hard Shin worked, particularly on her short game, that Seo raised her own work level to match her. It would pay massive dividends in 2008.

Seo had a slow start to her year, notching a few early top tens, but otherwise not contending. But when the second half of the KLPGA season started in late August, Seo became one of the hottest golfers on tour. In fact, she beat a well stocked field of stars at the first event back, the SBS Open, including Ji Yai Shin and Inbee Park, the winners of the last two LPGA Majors. Little did anyone realize that she was just getting started! She would lead the SBS Open wire to wire, and would do the same thing at the next event, the third KB Star Tour event, winning that tournament as well.

The next KLPGA event was in China: the Binhai Open. Seo started the week with her first round in three events where she was not in the lead at the end of the day. But she quickly righted the ship, moving into the lead in round two and cruising to her third straight win in round three. The final margin was five shots; she didn't even have to work up a sweat! With that win, she became one of the few golfers in history to win three straight events on the KLPGA tour. She played well at the next KLPGA event, the SK Energy Invitational, but only finished fourth. Still, it had been a great run that moved her into second on the KLPGA money list.

Links

Video: Hee Kyung Seo Rookie Profile
Video: Hee Kyung Seo Rookie of the Year

Galleries

Photos
Seoul Sisters Pix

Seo displaced another young, attractive golfer as second best on tour, Ha Neul Kim. The press started a friendly rivalry between the two stylish young women that added a lot of fire to the KLPGA the rest of the season. Kim spiced things up by winning a third event in 2008 to retake the second place spot on the money list. The two were even involved in a charity Skins Game, where Kim was paired with PGA star Anthony Kim and Seo teamed with a top KPGA player. Kim won that Skins game, but Seo got revenge by winning the KLPGA event later that week, the Interburgos Masters, for her fourth win of 2008.

After finished tied for 17th at the Hana Bank Championship, the lone LPGA event she played in 2008, Seo notched a third place at the S-OIL, then won her amazing fifth KLPGA event of the year. The tournament was the Saint Four Ladies Masters, the first KLPGA event co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour. Seo was two shots down to KLPGA star Sun Ju Ahn with four holes to play, but finished her round with four straight birdies to win by two strokes. This victory gained her membership on the European tour, and entry into their elite field events like the Evian Masters. It also made her only the third golfer in KLPGA history to win five times in a single season on tour. And Seo still wasn't done: she finished the season by winning her sixth title of 2008 at the ADT-CAPS, the year's final tournament.

At the KLPGA Awards Show in December, she appeared on stage with four other young KLPGA stars in a dance number (!), proving she was indeed a multi-talented individual.

Seo started the 2009 season with a second place finish at the year's first event, the China Ladies Open. She also had a 20th place finish at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia and a 15th place finish in the SBS Open in Hawaii. However, she missed the cut at the Nabisco after that.

But when the 2009 KLPGA season started in earnest in April, it didn't take her long to get back to her dominating ways. Now that Jiyai Shin was off the tour, it was Seo's chance to take over as the top player on tour, and she didn't disappoint. She won the Lotte Women's Open in April, and followed that up with a brilliant come from behind win at the Korean Women's Open in May. It was her first Major triumph, but it would not be her last. She also finished second at the next Major on tour, the KLPGA Championship.

In the middle of the year she hit a minor slump. At the same time, teen sensation So Yeon Ryu went on a tear, winning four of five events at one point to take over the lead on the money list. Suddenly, Seo was in a real battle for supremacy.

It did not take her long to get back on track. She won the Hite Cup Championship, the year's third Major, then won an epic battle with amateur Hana Jang to grab the year's fourth Major as well. In four Majors in 2009, Seo had three wins and a second, a truly fantastic achievement. For good measure, she also won the year's final tournament, the ADT-CAPS. Thus, she had five wins in 2009, 13 top tens, and won the money list (with 663 million won earned), Player of the Year and scoring titles as well. Despite a great year from Ryu, Seo had done what she set out to do at the start of the year: establish herself as the KLPGA's best player.

Seo continued to shine as 2009 closed. She won both her matches at the Kyoraku Cup to help Korea win that competition (in one of her matches, she bested the JLPGA's top gun Sakura Yokomine). She performed in a dance number with other top players at the KLPGA Awards show. Then, in the first KLPGA event of 2010, the Orient Ladies China Open, she led much of the week before falling to Ryu in a playoff.

2010 was a season of transition for Seo. On the Korean tour, she played very well, collecting 12 top tens. But after huge seasons the previous two years, she was unable to win so much as a single event in Korea in 2010. She wound up 6th on the year ending money list.

But Seo didn't have much to worry about, for she played brilliantly outside of Korea. After a top five finish at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia, Seo was given a sponsor's invite to play a new LPGA event, the Kia Classic. She did not disappoint: she ended up winning the tournament despite the presence of almost all the top women golfers in the world. And she did it easily, claiming a six shot margin over the field. Seo was the first sponsor's exemption to win on tour since Jin Joo Hong won in Korea back in 2006. But though she earned a tour card for 2011, Seo was reluctant at first to commit to playing in America. She had always planned to play in Japan for a few years before trying the LPGA. In the end, the card proved too much to refuse, and she accepted membership on the LPGA.

But she wasn't done with great golf in 2010. The next week she finished tied for 21st at the Kraft Nabisco, her best ever Major performance. Later in the season she trumped that by grabbing a top five at the Ricoh Women's British Open, the year's final Major.

Seo came to America in 2011 as a rookie on the LPGA tour, and achieved her goal of winning Rookie of the Year. She did this thanks to a consistency that saw her notch 11 top 25 finishes during the season. She had an early highlight in April when she shot a third round 65 en route to a tie for 6th at the Avnet Classic.

But without any question, the biggest moment in her career to date came in July at the US Women's Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She only was in the field because she had earlier won a sectional qualifier in New Jersey, the first time she had ever played 36 holes in one day. The Open was plagued with weather delays, and when she started her play on Sunday morning, she had only completed two rounds of golf all week. When the day began, she was tied for 21st and did not seem like she was going to be much of a factor for the title. But in that one day, she played two complete rounds, shooting back to back 68s to soar to 3 under total and the outright lead. Among the highlights of the long day were a run of four straight birdies early in her fourth round. By the time she reached the 17th hole of her final round, it was getting dark, and she and her group jogged down the fairway, trying to get their rounds finished before darkness fell. On the green however, the wind caused Seo to back off her birdie putt several times. She finally hit the putt, believing it had gone in, only to see it just miss. She lined up the short par save, but missed that putt, too, to fall to 3 under. Despite being shaken up, she still managed to make par on the final hole, finishing her week minutes before play ended for the day.

On Monday morning, only three golfers had a mathematical chance of catching her. The player with the best chance was none other than So Yeon Ryu, her old rival from the KLPGA days. Ryu was in the field thanks to her finish on the KLPGA tour in 2010, and needed one birdie to catch Seo. She did this on the final hole of the day, making a clutch birdie on the tough 18th hole to force the playoff. It would be the first time Koreans would meet in a playoff for a Major title.

The playoff was to be the best total score over the final three holes on the course, ironically the same three holes Ryu had just finished playing. Alas, Seo, who had not struck a shot in competition all day, quickly fell behind Ryu when, on the 17th hole, she made bogey and Ryu made birdie. Ryu added another birdie on 18 to win by three shots. But Seo's second place finish was still her best by far in a Major, and gave her a lead in the Rookie of the Year race she never relinquished.

Seo would go on to have one more top ten at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, and made over $600,000 on the year, just finishing outside the top 20 on the money list. At the ceremony where she was awarded her Rookie of the Year trophy, she gave a great speech in English to the assembled players and media. The highlight was when she told world #1 Ya Ni Tseng that she intended to take over as number one, and joked to her that she thought about Tseng when she saw a sticker on her car's rearview mirror: 'objects in mirror are closer than they appear'. She hoped to get closer to that top spot in the world in 2012!

Seo started 2012 with a bang. She was in or near the lead much of the Australian Women's Open, and even had a putt on the final green to win outright. Alas, she missed, and lost in the ensuing playoff. 2012 wound up being very similar to 2011 in a lot of ways. She made almost the exact same amount of money, and finished just one spot behind where she had finished in 2011. And she was not able to win. But she was also much more consistent, notching 8 top tens, a career high. And she gave herself several great chances for victories.

Her next close call came at the year's first Major, the Kraft Nabisco. On the back nine, Seo played great, and suddenly found herself with a three shot lead with four holes to play. But she bogied her final four holes to fall to 4th place. It was the second time in the previous three Majors that Seo had a great chance to win but could not pull it off.

Seo played great a couple of months later at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. She got into a playoff with Inbee Park, Chella Choi and Brittany Lang. Seo outlasted Park and Choi, but still lost to Lang. In August, she was tied for the lead at the Jamie Farr with one round to go, but So Yeon Ryu blew the field away and Seo faded to 9th.

Seo had another up and down season in 2013. She finished 33rd on the money list, a little worse than her first two years, and again did not collect a win. But she did have several strong moments, culminating in the happiest moment, when she married her fiance Phil Kook at the end of November.

Her best moment on course came at the Hana Bank. She made a clutch birdie on the final hole to take the solo lead, but wound up in a playoff with fellow Korean star Amy Yang. It was Yang who won, but the solo second was Hee Kyung's best finish of the year. She also played well at the Kraft (tie for 13th), in Taiwan (just missed a top ten), Hawaii (9th, but in contention on Sunday), and had tie for 25th finishes at the British and US Women's Opens.

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