Some golfers win tournaments, others win fans. Occasionally, they win both.
So Yeon Ryu, a 29-year-old LPGA Tour pro (and two-time major champion), won both a golf tournament and the goodwill of the golfing world on Sunday. Ryu, who plays on both the Korean LPGA Tour and the LPGA Tour, returned to golf for the first time in more than three months for this weekend’s Korean Women’s Open at the Bear’s Best Cheong Na Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.
After three strong rounds to open the weekend, Ryu entered Sunday with a one-shot lead. Eighteen even-par holes later, Ryu claimed her first victory in her first start of the resumed season. The win marked the first victory in two calendar years for Ryu, but that’s not all that made it so impressive.
With the win, the former U.S. Women’s Open champion nabbed a 250 million won first prize (roughly $206,000). But before the check cleared, Ryu had already pledged the money elsewhere — to Covid-19 relief efforts.
“I thought of donating since last night,” Ryu told the Korea JoonAng Daily, a Korean newspaper. “Before the awards ceremony, I called my mom. I told her that I’m going to make the announcement so don’t get too surprised. She was just as happy I was. Since this tournament has a lot of meaning to me and I thought that I may be able to play better if I had a positive goal, I came up with it last night.”
Ryu joined the LPGA Tour in 2012 and has 20 career professional wins. In 2017, she became the 11th No. 1 golfer in the world via the Rolex Rankings and was voted the LPGA Tour player of the year. While she was thrilled with the victory, Ryu admitted she never thought she’d contend in the event, which made her decision to donate all that much easier.
“Since it’s been a while since I competed in a tournament, I did want to win,” Ryu said. “But rather than being greedy, I just told myself to do my job. I was glad that I didn’t lose my focus until the end.”
Her career’s already seen the pinnacle of the sport. But even after a pair of major victories, So Yeon Ryu’s most impactful win might have come in an event she didn’t think she’d compete in.