Kim Jae-hee celebrates 23rd birthday in style by winning Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open


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SINGAPORE, 10 MARCH 2024 – South Korea’s Kim Jae-hee marked her 23rd birthday in spectacular fashion by securing her maiden KLPGA Tour victory in her 91st start at the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open (HFGSWO) on Sunday (March 10).

She closed with a flawless six-under 66 at Tanah Merah Country Club’s 72-par Tampines Course to secure a one-shot win over compatriot Bang Shin-sil, with whom she had started the day in joint second place.

Kim, who is ranked 24th on the KLPGA Tour, carded six birdies on Sunday to finish with a 17-under 271 total and narrowly edge out Bang, who carded a 67.

Third round leader Oh Soo-min suffered heartbreak after squandering a three-shot lead and settled for outright third place with a 71, finishing with a 273 total.

She had been aiming to become the first amateur winner on the KLPGA Tour since Choi Hye-jin in 2017, as well as the fourth-youngest winner of all time in the prestigious circuit.

A smiling Kim said at the winner’s press conference: “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. I feel very comfortable and at the same time I feel very proud.

“This is actually the first time I played on my birthday. So, when I heard about the tournament dates, I just thought, oh, I’ll be playing on my birthday!

“But to win this tournament I think makes it much more special and I understand I’m the third player to win on her birthday during a tournament so I will remember this day for a long time.”

With a three-shot deficit to overcome, Kim rose to the occasion, recording a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth hole and adding another on the ninth to tie for the lead with Oh at 15-under at the midway point.

Despite bogeying two of her opening three holes, Oh staged an incredible fightback, responding with three birdies to stay at the top.

Kim’s consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes helped her pull two shots clear of the chasing pack and proved decisive.

Although both Bang and Oh kept the pressure on in the closing stretch, Kim remained steady, warding off any potential bogeys to secure victory and the winner’s cheque of S$198,000.

Kim acknowledged that several near misses in the past had equipped her with the experience needed to secure the breakthrough she had been seeking.

“Those second places have definitely actually helped me prepare. When you have a lot of experience playing in the leaders’ group, you feel less nervous,” said Kim, who had three runner-up finishes on the KLPGA Tour before today’s victory.

Runner-up Bang remained upbeat despite narrowly missing out on her third title and hopes to replicate her form at next week’s Blue Canyon Ladies Championship in Thailand.

She said: “It was really hot but I did my best physically. My energy level was low so it was hard to keep up (in the later rounds). I knew that it was very close, but I didn’t feel too nervous, I just did my best when it came to every shot.

“Second place is a very good start for me and I would like to play consistently for the rest of the season.”

Teenager Oh concludes her campaign with much to be proud of, having surpassed her previous best of a tied-ninth finish at the 9th Kyochon 1991 Ladies Open last year.

Having joined the South Korean national team only this year, her fine run of form has only fuelled her desire to participate in as many professional tournaments as possible and finish in the top five.

“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,” said Oh.

“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.

“I was a little bit sorry to not win but there’s so much that I learnt through this competition that compensates for not being able to win.”

Oh’s third-round flightmate and Thai world No. 27 Patty Tavatanakit was tied-fourth with a 13-under 275 (67, 69, 70, 69) total, while defending champion Park Ji-young scored 67 on Sunday to finish tied-16th on a 279. Singapore amateur Chen Xingtong, the only local player to make the cut, carded a par-72 for a one-over 289 total and finished tied-54th.

The full results for the 2024 HFGSWO can be found here.

Credit: Hana Financial Group Singapore

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