“I think you have what it takes to represent Korean women’s golf.”
These were the words of a guardian who introduced a young high school girl golfer to a reporter during a commemorative round at Haiwon CC in Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do, 18 years ago in 2005.
The high school girl was Lee Bomi (35). Much to her guardian’s delight and expectation, Lee has gone on to become the face of Korean women’s golf.
Lee made her KLPGA Tour debut in 2007 and won four times before moving to Japan in 2011. From her first win in 2012 to her retirement this year, Lee played in 298 tournaments and won 21 times.
In 2015 and 2016, she was the Japan Ladies Professional Golf (JLPGA) Tour money winner for two consecutive years. In 2015, she became the first female golfer to surpass 200 million yen in single-season earnings. In 2017, she won the Ito En Ladies to reach 20 wins on the JLPGA Tour, earning her a permanent seeding on the KLPGA Tour. The KLPGA Tour grants players who reach 20 wins on overseas tours the right to play on the tour permanently.
Ibomi ended her 13-year career on the JLPGA Tour after the second round of the JLPGA Tour Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies at Masters Golf Club near Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, on March 20. It was her official retirement from the Japanese scene.
In a recent interview with the Kookmin Daily, Ibomi said, “I had mixed feelings. “On the one hand, I was excited, but on the other hand, I was also worried because I had to stop doing what I was doing,” she said.
His retirement ceremony was reportedly attended by hundreds of fans wearing pink T-shirts provided by the organizers, despite the rainy weather. It was a testament to how much he was loved by his Japanese fans.
Ibomi said, “I tried not to cry, but tears came to my eyes. “I’ve had a hard time in the last five years because of my poor performance, and my fans have also had a hard time,” he said. “But I think I was able to hold on because they comforted me and encouraged me to be strong. But when I thought about it being the last time, I cried.”
The JLPGA Tour is reportedly considering presenting Lee with a Special Achievement Award at its year-end awards ceremony, as she is credited with helping to improve relations between Korea and Japan.
Only Japanese women’s golf legend Hisako Higuchi was honored with the award in 2015. If Ibomi is honored, she would be the second player in history and the first foreigner.
Shortly after winning back-to-back JLPGA Tour money titles, Ibomi experienced a sharp decline, and she wondered why.
“I just turned 30. I expected my life to peak at 30 and go downhill, but it was faster than I expected.” “It was a little hard mentally because there was so much attention, and to make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out,” he said. “Especially, I lost my game due to frequent quarantine, and it was hard to see my family, whom I wanted to see,” he continued. “Then, the golf tour life that I enjoyed gradually felt like work, and I think that’s when the burnout came.”
That’s not to say he didn’t try. He used his “best friend” Shin Ji-Ae, 35, as a target for one last burst of enthusiasm. “She’s just a friend, but she’s amazing. “Unlike her, I think I’ve achieved all the goals I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, so I don’t think I’ve been able to set any more goals,” he explained.
Among his accomplishments is getting married. Lee married actress Kim Tae-hee’s brother, Lee Wan, 39, in December 2019. “I got married at 32, not too early, not too late,” he said, adding, “I’m so happy. It’s completely different from the time when I felt sexually happy.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it because I was so focused on touring. “It’s not that I haven’t thought about it because I’ve been so focused on the tour. I want to take a break and enjoy my own free time,” he said. “It’s not that I haven’t thought about it because I’ve seen (Park) Joo-young and (Ahn) Sun-joo win championships after having children, but it’s not right now. I want to take a break for the time being.”
When she’s not competing, Ibomi said she often plays a round with her husband, who is an avid golfer. “Of course I play. He’s in his early 80s, but I give him four handicaps on the front and back,” she said, adding, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but I’d like to see him lose as slowly as possible.”
Although it’s not the same as it used to be, there are some players who want to enter the JLPGA Tour. When asked for advice for such juniors, Lee said, “Just come here and you will adapt well to the tour. The tour environment itself is designed to fully utilize your skills,” he said. “However, the language aspect can bring discomfort, so you should be prepared for that.”
Although Ibomi has retired from the Japanese scene, she will still be playing on the KLPGA Tour next year. “I will be playing in the SK Shielders-SK Telecom Championship, which is the final event of the KLPGA Tour season. Even if I play on the tour next year, it won’t be many tournaments.”
He was full of praise for the juniors on the KLPGA Tour. “There are so many players who play well with solid fundamentals,” he said, “so the future of women’s golf in Korea is very bright.”
She then cautiously shared her own thoughts on the stagnant Korean women’s game. “I hope we can continue to do things to show the world that Korean golf is strong,” Lee said, adding that she hopes there will be more juniors who challenge themselves on foreign tours.
This season, Korean women’s golf has won three tournaments in Japan and four on the U.S. Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour. Looking at the 카지노사이트 number of wins alone, it is certainly below expectations. The LPGA Tour, in particular, has seen the decline of the ‘Korean Legion’.
“It’s not that they can’t do it,” he said emphatically, “but in their heyday, there were more than 20 top players, and now there are not enough of them. It’s absurd to say ‘no’ in such a situation.” He continued, “Players with bigger dreams can do it. “If there are more players with bigger dreams and more sponsors who can support them, things will be different,” he said.