Just three events later, at the IOS Futures Golf
Classic in El Paso, Texas, Song Hee outlasted Angela Park in regulation,
then found herself involved in an epic playoff with Sarah Huarte
for the title. The playoff dragged on for nine grueling holes before
Kim was finally able to put Huarte away to claim her second title
in six starts. She finally found the will to win, she said later,
because of fear that the event might be postponed until Monday due
to darkness. She was planning to fly home to see her mom, and would
have had to miss her plane had that happened. With her second win,
she climbed to the top of the tour money list.
Two weeks later, she returned, played the Aurora
Health Care Championship as her first event back... and won again.
She added a fourth victory in July at the Cigna Chip in for a Cure
in Connecticut. She collected the trophy on July 16th, her 18th
birthday. She was greeted on the 18th green with birthday wishes
and flowers, which caused the shy champion to blush.
Song Hee won the Gettysburg Championship in late
August for a fifth win on tour, tying Grace Park for most wins in
a single season. She was not quite able to top the all time money
earned for a season, set by Beth Bauer a few years earlier, but
she came close. She wound up Player of the Year and Rookie of the
Year on the Futures Tour, and earned her LPGA exempt status for
Unfortunately, Song Hee's rookie season (2007) proved
to be a struggle from beginning to end. Instead of contending for
or even winning Rookie of the Year, she found it hard to make cuts,
and did not even manage a top 20 finish all year. She did secure
a non-exempt card, but had to go to Q-School to try to get her exempt
status back. She was beaten badly by both In-Bee Park and Angela
Park on the LPGA, two players she had dominated on the Futures Tour.
In 2008, Song Hee started the season with conditional
status, but it did not take her long to start showing the kind of
talent everyone had expected from her in her rookie year. After
missing the cut in her first event, she shot her career best score,
a 64, at the next tournament, and finished tied for 15th, her best
finish to date. Just a couple of months later, she put herself into
contention to win in Mexico, eventually finishing second. She followed
that with a tie for fifth at the Ginn Open the next week. The player
who had not managed even one top ten her rookie year was suddenly
Kim continued to play well most of the season. She
had another great chance to win at the Navistar Classic, but fell
a bit short on Sunday and finished 4th. The next week, in the elite
field at the Samsung, she was in contention right until the final
hole, finishing second to Paula Creamer.
In the end, she made nearly a million dollars in
2008, reestablishing herself decisively as one of the top young
players in the game. Her money total was more than ten times what
she had made in 2007.
Song Hee continued her ascendance in 2009. Once
again, she failed to win a tournament, but she made more than a
million bucks all the same, and finished just outside the top ten
on the money list. Her stats were very impressive all around: 12
top tens, top 12 finishes in 3 of the 4 Majors, with a 21st in the
other (all those finishes beat her previous best Major result).
Her scoring average of 70.52 was 8th best in the league. By the
end of the year, especially with Na Yeon Choi claiming two wins,
Kim could legitimately be called the best player on tour yet to
Kim's 2010 season was yet more brilliant still.
She topped her all time money total with over $1.2 million earned,
but it was her consistency that was most astonishing. She started
the year with 8 straight top tens and tallied 15 in all, tied for
the most on tour in 2010. She had top 20s in all four Majors, with
a third at the Nabisco and a second at the LPGA Championship. She
led the league in scoring average most of the year, and wound up
with her career best, a 70.21. She also had her first top ten on
the money list, an 8th place. She only once finished outside the
top 22 in 22 tournaments.
But for all her greatness, Kim still was unable
to notch a win. Her second place at the LPGA Championship sounds
impressive, but she lost by 12 shots to Cristie Kerr. She lost a
playoff at the Jamie Farr to Na Yeon Choi, and ran up against Choi
again at the Hana Bank Championship in Korea. Despite leading that
event for two days, Kim again faltered on Sunday and Choi won. If
there were any doubt before, there isn't now: Kim is clearly the
best player on tour without a win.
After several great seasons, 2011 was a bit of a
step backwards for Kim. Not only did she not breakthrough with her
long awaited win, she rarely even had a good shot at a win all year.
After 15 top tens in 2010, she could only muster 2 in 2011, and
did not have even a single top ten in any Major. Her best performance
by far came at the Avnet Classic. She was in perfect position to
win there on Sunday, but Maria Hjorth came from two shots behind
her to take the crown. Kim had to settle for another second place
finish, her fourth.
Kim wound up 33rd on the money list, her second
worst performance since joining the tour.
2012 was an even worse year, but much of it stemmed
from a neck injury that sidelined her the second half of the season.
She only made 2 cuts all year and finished no higher than 33rd.
In 2013, she played 10 LPGA tournaments, but only made the cut twice
and earned just $11,000. She wound up losing her card, and the rumor
is that she will try her luck on the KLPGA in 2014.