by STEVE HAN
South Korea’s Mi Jung Hur toppled Stacy Lewis to win the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Pratville, Ala. on Sunday, marking her first victory on the tour in five years since 2009.
The 24-year-old broke the tournament record after finishing with a 6-under 66. She beat Lewis, who’s ranked No. 1 in the world, by four strokes.
But there are stories behind Hur’s dramatic win that goes beyond the statistics and competition. Here are five reasons that makes her triumph in Pratville from this past weekend more inspiring.
Hur’s win at the Yokohama LPGA Classic is a true underdog story. With the win, Hur went from the verge of being a forgotten figure to becoming relevant again. The five-year dry spell saw her drop to 94th in the rankings. She was even in danger of losing her LPGA Tour card after finishing outside of the top 10 for 10 months until this past August. But Hur, who began making revisions in her swing and polished her putting three years ago, saw her efforts paying dividends (she is averaging the least number of puts per round this season in the LPGA) in recent weeks as she finished ninth at the Portland Classic last month, followed by the third-place finish at the Evian, where her impressive performance was overshadowed by the 19-year-old up-and-comer Hyo-Joo Kim.
It was a truly heartwarming father-daughter story. Trying desperately to help his daughter end years of slump, Kwan Mu Hur left his business behind to caddie for his daughter recently. After winning the Yokohama LPGA Classic, Hur said that she drew strength from her father, her first swing coach and her caddie in Pratville, as she went on to win the tournament. The petite man, who appears to be far shorter than his 5-foot-7 daughter, was visibly struggling at times to keep up with Hur while carrying her heavy golf clubs. “My father carried my bag all week,” Hur said on Sunday. “He was my first swing coach. His presence was a huge help for me.”
Hur’s father also told Golf.com, “It’s definitely an exciting week for me.”
In crunch time, Hur drew from past experiences of falling short and withstood the pressure of protecting the lead. Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world, was within one shot at one point, but Hur kept her composure. Her swing didn’t waver and she kept calm until the final putt. She admitted that she was in tears before her second shot on the final hole and when she connected her final putt, her head bowed and tears flowed.
“I just played my own game and after nine holes I made a few birdies on the back nine,” Hur told Golfchannel.com. “The last two holes, I really enjoyed the golf.”
Photo via ESPN Golf