|5||Thrilling Win by One Shot in the Beautiful Sunset of Weihai, Asiana Airlines Open|
“Asiana Airlines Open”, the first Ladies Professional Golf to be hosted by an airline in Korea and China, was successfully held from 6th to 8th of July at Weihai Point Hotel & Golf Resort, Shandong province, China. Kumho Asiana group has been organizing golf tournaments since 2013 to promote exchange and bond between Korea and China. The tournament was reborn, only this time with Asiana Airlines as the new title sponsor.
The 3-day long pursuit of Cho Jeong Min has ended with Kim Ji Hyun2 winning with merely one shot under. The tournament was filled with the heart-warming interaction between Korean and Chinese professionals, beautiful scenery, and thrilling unpredictable gameplay. Asiana Airlines Open was a harmonious and beautiful tournament that encompassed all of the above features.
Pre-game Ceremony - Friendship Displayed Between Professionals From Both Countries
Before the tournament began, the professionals representing both countries attended the pre-game ceremony and exchanged warm pleasantries. On the first official day of practice, 4th of July, 13 students from Weihai Banyue Bay Elementary School, a school in sisterhood relation with Asiana Airlines, were invited to the golf course and honored with “Beautiful Birdie” donation. “Beautiful Birdie” donation fund correlates with the number of birdies the professionals scored in the tournament to provide the students with better education opportunities. Korea’s Kim Ji Hyun, Choi Hye Jin, and China’s Shi Yuting, Zhang Jienalin, Lin Yezhou taught the students how to putt and explained rules of the golf tournament. It was the first time for the students to encounter golf. They listened carefully with curious expressions and had a blast as they high-fived the professionals when they successfully putted.
The second day of the pre-game ceremony was the official photocall. On this day the trophy saw the light for the first time and the signature hole representing Asiana Airlines was showcased as well. The two veterans of the tournament, Jang Ha Na and Feng Shanshan, led a joyful atmosphere and lightened mood while taking photos with KLPGA’s number 1 rank in prize money, Oh Ji Hyun, CLPGA’s number 1 rank in prize money, Saranporn, super rookie Choi Hye Jin, and beautiful golfer Sui Xiang. The entire staff and crew laughed as Feng Shanshan arrived a little late and apologized in Korean to her friend Jang Ha Na.
The sea fog that covered all of Weihai Point Hotel & Golf Resort had magically dissipated completely with the start of the tournament and brought excitement along with the nicest weather Weihai had seen for days. It was as if the city was congratulating the start of the tournament. However, the wind was not welcoming the players. The players had trouble keeping the ball inside the fairway and their attempt to approach the green with a precise iron shot was not easy.
On the 1st round, Lee Jung Min, who had once before won 2nd place in this very course, scored a 7 under par and was in the lead by 2 shots. Lee Jung Min rarely used a driver and tried her best to keep within the fairways with her tee shot. In runner-up Lee So Young and Kim Min Sun5 were on her tail. Overall, the top 10 lead were all Korean professionals and winning against Chinese players.
The harsh wind continued to round 2 and due to the particular pin placement, many players lost points. All 3 top leads from the first day were struggling when Kim Ji Hyun2, Ji Han Sol, and Park Min Ji took the lead. Kim Ji Hyun2 even displayed a spectacular play by scoring 6 birdies in a row from 2nd to 7th hole, and claimed the first place without hesitation. On this day, only a dozen professionals scored under par and a huge shift in ranks occured. In the middle of the commotion, CLPGA’s top rank Saranporn scored 1 shot under and redeemed CLPGA’s ego by sharing 7th place.
In the last round Cho Jeong Min’s attempt to overtake Kim Ji Hyun2 continued. The round started with Kim Ji Hyun2 in the lead and Cho Jeong Min in 6th place by 5 shots, however, Cho Jeong Min closed the gap by 3 shots in the beginning of the match. By the end of the first half of the round there were only 2 shots between them. From 12th to 15th hole, Cho Jeong Min managed to tie in the lead with Kim Ji Hyun2 by reducing 4 shots.
Kim Ji Hyun2 however, did not give in easily. Although she only reduced 1shot in the first half, she quickly recovered her senses and kept maintaining the lead. On the 16th hole, Kim Ji Hyun2’s ball bounced off the manhole cover into a different hole, but Kim Ji Hyun2 saved her par and even scored a 4 meter birdie putt on the 17th hole and closed in on the championship trophy. Although the sudden unexpected outcome on the 16th hole increased the chances of an extended game, Kim Ji Hyun2 didn’t lose her focus and successfully landed a birdie on the 17th hole. Later, Kim Ji Hyun2 commented, “I couldn’t be caught off guard on a single stroke. I poured my soul into every shot. On the 17th hole I thought to myself not to undershoot it for both the shot and the putt and that resulted in a birdie”. With her birdie on the 17th hole, Kim Ji Hyun2 ditched Cho Jeong Min by 1 shot and took the lead to herself and became the champion of “Asiana Airlines Open”.
Kim Ji Hyun2 and Cho Jeong Min’s spectacular match was even more impressive due to the beautiful natural scenery of Weihai Point. The endless blue sea and sky, the grand rock cliffs on the edges of the golf course was in perfect harmony with the landscape, and the tournament ended with a magnificent sunset. Despite being its first tournament, the perfect ending of “Asiana Airlines Open” built great anticipation for their next.