SEOUL (Reuters) – World number nine Park Sung-hyun, the leading money winner on this season’s KLPGA Tour, announced on Monday she is leaving the Korean circuit and will play on the U.S. women’s tour next season.
Park’s departure comes as another blow to the domestic tour, which has been boosting prize money and adding tournaments to its schedule in a bid to keep top players.
The 23-year-old has amassed more than $1.1 million in prize money from Korea alone this season, and finished in the top 10 at three of the five women’s global major championships.
The long hitter is considered the brightest talent to emerge from Korea in years and, if she can improve her putting, has the potential to reach world number one.
“After much thought I have decided to play on the LPGA Tour next season,” she said at a news conference. “I want to win the Rookie of the Year Award and will move to the United States to prepare for next season.”
While many thought the decision to switch to the U.S. tour was the natural progression for Park, her lack of English and the prospect of moving away from home had played on her mind.
At last month’s KEB Hana Bank Championship, Park said she was still undecided about the move, pointing to the language barrier and her difficulties in adapting to new environments.
Her agency, Sema Sports, said she had bought a house in Orlando and hired an English instructor to help her prepare for the new season, according to Yonhap news agency.
(Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Additional reporting by Yun Hwan Chae; Editing by Ian Ransom)