There are a handful of very successful Korean golfers on the LPGA of Japan Tour (JLPGA), including Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee and 2-time defending Player of the Year Sun-Ju Ahn. One of the forgotten Seoul Sister stars on the JLPGA might just be Hyun-Ju Shin. She finished 5th on the JLPGA money list back in 2005. In 2008, she won 2 events, including a Major, the 2008 JLPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup. Hyun-Ju even outdueled the great Jiyai Shin down the stretch to win Konica. But it’s been a few years since Hyun-Ju’s last win, and sometimes out of sight is out of mind. She did have 1 win in 2010 but was not nearly in contention as frequently as she once was. Fast forward midway through 2012 and Hyun-Ju Shin reminded us how good she can be. Coming from 3 shots back of the leader, Shin fired a 5-under 67 to vault up the leaderboard with an 11-under overall, winning the 2012 Nichirei Ladies by 1 stroke over a trio in 2nd place. In fact, she birdied 6 of the first 11 holes (against 1 bogey), including birdies on the first 3 holes in a row. It is her 6th JLPGA victory. Let’s hope it’s not almost 2 years until her next win.
However, I was a bit disappointed as Hyun-Ju Shin’s success came at the expense of 2 players for whom I was rooting, overnight leader Soo-Yun Kang and Chie Arimura. Kangsy didn’t play terribly at 1-under for the final round, her 10-under overall score falling 1 shot shy of Hyun-Ju. After only 1 bogey in the first 2 rounds, Kangsy would have 2 at inopportune times in the final round. She birdied the 1st hole only to give it back with a bogey on the 5th. After birdying the par 5 7th, she once again gave it back on the par 4 9th. She did birdie the par 3 11th but couldn’t manage another coming in. Still, it’s not a bad round. She forced somebody to have to have a great round to beat her. Unfortunately for Kangsy, somebody did. Chie Arimura had a better round at 4-under for the final round, matching Kangsy’s 10-under overll and also falling 1 shot shy of Hyun-Ju. The bogey bug also bit Chie. After finishing the 2nd round with an eagle on the par 5 18th, she fired 7 birdies in the final round. But she also had 3 bogeys, including one on the par 5 7th. Arimura is an absolute fan favorite and the crowd would have loved to see her break the 6 tournament winless streak by Japanese players, but in the end the streak extends to 7 tournaments. 6 of those 7 were by Korean players. The other was by recent LPGA Major winner Shanshan Feng of China. Chie is the last Japanese winner, at the 2012 Cyber Agent Ladies.