Symetra Tour award winner ready for LPGA debut
LPGA Tour rookie Youngin Chun has arrived in Adelaide in preparation for the Women's Australian Open at The Grange Golf Club.
Chun, 18, from Gainesville Florida is yet to be guaranteed a place in the Australian Open starting February 14.
It's an anxious wait, but if unsuccessful Chun will have to compete in the Qualifying tournament played on The Grange East course with the top-three places gaining automatic entry into the field.
"You may not even imagine how much I hope to play in the Australian Open," Chun told Our Sporting Life SA.
"I really, really want to play, I am here so early because I really want to play.
Last season Chun was the youngest member on the Symetra Tour - the LPGA's development tour.
Last October, Chun was the youngest player to pass the LPGA Qualifying series through the new Q-Series concept which rewards the best ready-made talent that is not currently in the LPGA.
The series consisted of a two-week tournament play and included eight rounds at Pinehurst Resort. Chun fired six-under over the final two rounds and finished at +1 overall and a tie-for-13th. She qualified as a Priority List Category 14 status which doesn't always guarantee a place in some LPGA tournaments.
While the majority of LPGA players will turn up a week prior to the tournament start, the commited Chun has arrived over a month early to accustom herself with the conditions, course and greens which she says is quite different to what she is used too back home in the United States.
"The fairways and greens are firm, they are so different from those of Gainesville Florida," she said.
"I personally like the firm and fast greens.
Chun has quite a unique journey to the LPGA and she started with sending an application to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan asking for approval for her to compete as a professional in the 2017 LPGA Qualifying Tournament aged just 17.
Chun sent in a 'petition for underage admission' along with her impressive amateur highlights.
She was granted access to play in Q-School with the ability to only earn Symetra Tour membership. She played Stage I of Q-School and progressed through to Stage II scoring two-under, ending up 18th overall. This gave her a place as a professional on the 2018 Symetra Tour.
As a Symetra Tour rookie Chun did not disappoint, she made 14 of 21 cuts including two top-ten's and four top-20's overall but the biggest accomplishment came when she won the Penske Total Driving Experience Award.
The award is presented to the player who leads the Symetra Tour for total driving, a combination of distance and accuracy. Chun placed 16th for driving distance with an average of 270 yards and managed to come sixth for accuracy with 86.4% of fairways hit.
"There were many American tall senior players, so I was surprised when I received this award and it made me so happy," the 164cm Chun said.
"I usually was confident with my driver, but after I received this award, I became even more confident about myself, and it helped a lot for Q-Series.
Since aged five Chun has been actively playing golf and her flawless swing was on show to the world when aged just seven, filmed on 'youtube'.
But her love for the game didn't arrive until she won the US Kids Golf World Championship aged 10 in 2010 and 12 in 2012.
Her impressive junior achievements include five titles on the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), a member of the 2017 Ping Junior Solheim Cup Team, a four-time Rolex Junior All-American team member and in 2017 she won the Polo Golf Junior Classic which she believes is so far her career highlight.
While Chun is hoping to emulate her junior success to the LPGA she has already set her sights on what she would like to achieve in 2019.
"My goal in 2019 is to make the cuts in every tournament I compete and finally play on the Asian circuit," she said.
"I would like to travel to many countries too.
Chun's coach and caddy is her father Eric, he is also a golf professional.
Eric has spent 17 years as a host on a tv show called 'World's Greatest Teachers' which Youngin has featured on.
"I have been running my TV program since 2001 to now," Eric says.
"I already made 800 topics, the guests have included Annika Sorenstam and David Leadbetter.
According to Youngin her strengths in her game belong in her driving and concentration while being very composed on the course.
While she waits for news regarding her position in the final field of the Australian Open, Youngin is enjoying what Adelaide has to offer.
"I like the golf course and food here," she said.
"The natural environment is very nice, I love the blue sky and the fresh air here too."
Youngin will travel to play the Victorian Open later this month before making a trip back to Adelaide for the Australian Open.
Images by Andrew Frackowski