‘Rookie of the Year’ Bang Shin-sil, 19, is back in contention for another win. The South Korean is tied for the lead on the first day of the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Tour’s E1 Charity Open ($900 million in prize money).
Bang fired a four-under 68 with five birdies and a bogey in the first round at the par-72 Seongmunan Country Club in Wonju, Gangwon Province, on Saturday to share the lead with Ji Hansol (27) and Kim Min-sun (19).
Bang, who has played in four KLPGA Tour events this season and finished in contention for the title on two occasions before narrowly missing out, has set the stage for a title challenge from the first round.
In her first professional KLPGA메이저놀이터 Tour event last month, the South Korean was tied for the lead with Lee Da-yeon until the 14th hole in the final round of the Major Chris F&C KLPGA Championship before falling short at the last. Two weeks ago at the NH Investment & Securities Ladies Championship, she held a one-stroke lead until the 16th hole, when an out-of-bounds (OB) shot at the 17th hole cost her another top-10 finish.
In her third attempt at the title, Bang used a combination of her long and short game to move into a share of the lead.
He hit two driver tee shots of more than 290 yards and two more of more than 280 yards, showcasing the long game that has become so popular in recent years.
After picking up his first birdie on the second (par-4), Bangsinsil hit his third shot to within a metre of the pin for birdie on the ninth (par-5).
At the 10th (par-4), he played a superb bunker shot from the bunker in front of the green, dropping the ball to within 60cm of the pin to great applause, but unfortunately missed the short par putt and recorded a bogey.
However, he followed it up with a nervy birdie. On the 12th (par-3), an island green surrounded by a lake, Bangsinseom wedged his tee shot to within two metres of the pin with little room to spare and made the birdie putt. After a 3.2 metre birdie at the 14th (par-4), Bangsinsil added a 1.8 metre birdie at the 16th (par-5) to move into a share of the lead.
On the final 18th (par-5), he travelled a whopping 253 yards after holding his wood off the tee. After reaching the green in three attempts, Bangsinsil missed a tricky 6.4-metre downhill birdie putt to the left of the hole and finished the first round tied for the lead.
Bang Shin-sil’s iron tee shot (Photo: Courtesy of the KLPGA)
Ji Han-sol, the 2021 winner of the event, and this year’s rookie, Kim Min-sun, also shot four-under-par 68s to share the lead with Bang.
Ji said, “My ball striking has improved recently. But I struggled with my putts. Today I focused a lot on my putts, and even though this is a different course than the one I won on, I have a good image of this tournament, so I took advantage of that feeling and hit it well.”
Yoo So-yeon, 33, who has six career victories on the Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour, and this season’s money winners Park Ji-young, 27, Lee Se-hee, 26, Choi Ye-rim, 24, Lee Chae-eun, 24, Kim Ga-young, 21, Kim Hae-rim, 34, and Ko Ji-won, 19, were one shot back in a group of four at three-under par 69.
Choi Hye-jin, 24, playing in her first tournament in Korea in a year and a half, carded four birdies and two bogeys for a 2-under 70 and is two shots off the lead. Choi, who has been playing on the LPGA Tour since last year, has two weeks of KLPGA Tour events between this week and the Lotte Open next week.