Saturday, July 13, 2013

RIP Ok-Hee Ku, Korean Golf Pioneer

The news that Ok-Hee Ku passed away last week at the age of 56 has been reverberating throughout the world of women's golf.  As notes, Ku was the 1st South Korean to win on tour, in the 1988 Standard Register Turquoise Classic.  Her professional career spanned the KLPGA and JLPGA from 1978 to 2006 (although she kept playing irregularly on the JLPGA up through last season), where she won 20 times in Korea and 23 times in Japan.

During her peak years on the JLPGA, from 1984 to 2003, Ku competed with multiple generations of JLPGA legends, from Hisako Higuchi (69 wins) to Ayako Okamoto (44 wins) to Yuri Fudoh (50 wins and counting), paving the way for fellow Korean stars like Mi-Jeong Jeon (22 wins and counting), Ji-Hee Lee (17 wins and counting), and Sun-Ju Ahn (11 wins and counting).  Although Ku never won the JLPGA money title, she finished 2nd in 1997 (2 wins) and 1999 (2 wins), 3rd in 1985 (3 wins), 1998 (1 win), and 2000 (3 wins), and 4th in 2003 (1 win).  Her last JLPGA victory came in 2005 in the aptly-named Apita Circle K Thanks Ladies event.  The current globalized state of women's professional golf owes many thanks to Ok-Hee Ku.

For more on Ku's career and impact, especially in Korea, check out the Seoul thread on her passing.

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