Singapore Women's Open: Kim Jae-hee makes decisive birdies, then holds nerve to outlast amateur sensation Oh Soo-min

On her 23rd birthday, South Korean wins her first KLPGA title with bogey-free round to overtake 15-year-old fan favourite

South Korean golfer Kim Jae-hee wins the second edition of the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open. (PHOTO: Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open)
South Korean golfer Kim Jae-hee wins the second edition of the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open. (PHOTO: Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open)

SINGAPORE — They chased each other through most of the tense final round at the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open on Sunday (10 March): professional vs amateur, 23-year-old vs 15-year-old, neck and neck at the top of the leaderboard.

In the end, fourth-year professional golfer Kim Jae-hee caught up with amateur sensation and third-round leader Oh Soo-min in the front nine, struck two decisive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to take the lead, and held firm in the end to win the second edition of the Open at Tanah Merah Country Club's Tampines Course.

She carded a bogey-free final round of six-under-par 66 for a 271 total on her 23rd birthday to clinch a one-stroke victory over compatriot Bang Shin-sil, who was the first-round leader and also had a bogey-free round of 67 to overtake Oh, who was a further stroke behind with a final-round 71.

This was Kim's first title on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Tour circuit, of which the Singapore Women's Open was the season-opener. She had come in as runner-up on three previous occasions, and those occasions gave her the know-how to finally get the job done in the final round.

"When you have a lot of experience playing in the leaders’ group, you feel less nervous," said Kim, who is ranked No.24 on the KLPGA Tour.

"Today I was really calm throughout my round, and I was able to be comfortable and make the putts to get in front. This is my first victory and I feel it's a little bit belated because I wanted to win a tournament much earlier on. But I'm very happy to begin this season with this victory under my belt."

Great learning process for Oh Soo-min

As for 15-year-old Oh, she could rue a couple of missed birdies that would have extended her three-shot overnight lead, but the young sensation could also reflect on a superb week when she captured the hearts of the golf fans at Tanah Merah with her stunning charge into contention.

"When I decided to enter this tournament, I thought, ‘Let’s just make the cut, win the best amateur award and be in the top five.' Those were my initial goals," she said after the round.

“I’m very grateful I was able to play in the champions flight because I’ve learnt a lot. Sometimes in high-pressure situations, I tend to rush my shots. But through this tournament, I learnt to be more calm and poised. There’s so much that I learnt throughout this competition, and that compensates for not being able to win.”

Tournament favourite, Thailand's world No.27 Patty Tavatanakit, had looked primed for a late charge into title contention after making the turn at three-under. However, she could not make another birdie in the back nine, and had to settle for a final-round of 69 and a total of 275, good for joint-fourth place with Korean's Jun Ye-sung and Ro Seung-hui.

The only Singaporean to have made the weekend cut, 15-year-old amateur Chen Xingtong, carded an even-par 72 for a 289 total, finishing in joint-54th.

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