Geography has been a hot topic in Chaska this week, and not only because the 156 players at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship hail from more than 25 countries.
This is the first time a major women’s golf event has been held at Hazeltine National since 1977, the first major in the state since 2008 and the first time ever this event has been hosted here.
Michelle Wie planned to find some hot restaurants in Minneapolis. Jin Young Ko hoped to check out the Mall of America for some shopping. And, you betcha, Canadian Brooke Henderson felt right at home with polite crowds and a tree-lined course.
Jeongeun Lee6, however, arrived with no agenda.
Had she ever heard of Hazeltine?
“This is my first time, so no.”
“No, not at all. First time.”
Actually, she’s seeing a lot of America for the first time and making a mark along the way.
Lee6, or simply “6” by fellow players and PGA Tour staff because there were already five players with the same name when she joined the LPGA Tour of Korea in 2016, earned her 2019 LPGA card through qualifying school. Her first victory came earlier this month at the U.S. Women’s Open in Charleston, S.C. She backed it up with a runner-up finish the following week in New Jersey and has cashed more than $1.5 million in earnings as a rookie.
“My goal was always to make as many cuts as I can and make as many top 10s as I can,” Lee6 said through an interpreter. “Since winning the U.S. Open, I know there are a lot more people that know who I am. And so now I want to continue playing well.”
If she keeps up at this pace, maybe Lee6 will tag along with Ko for some upscale retail therapy.
Asked about her biggest purchase so far, Lee6 answered shyly in Korean.
“Shoes,” her interpreter said.
Laughter ensued, then Lee6 clarified. Everyone understood.
Life outside the terminal
San Francisco-born and Southern California-raised, Danielle Kang now lives in Las Vegas and doesn’t get to the Midwest too often. Or rather, she doesn’t stay.
This is indeed flyover country.
“I know this is a Delta hub,” Kang said. “I stop over at this airport. A. Lot.
“I’m excited to have left the airport for the first time. In Vegas, it’s like 100 degrees right now. I’d rather take this weather.”
Mia Hamm received the KPMG Inspire Greatness Award on Wednesday at Hazeltine. A star of two winning Team USA Women’s World Cup and Olympics teams, Hamm said she isn’t much of a golfer — “I have clubs,” she quipped — but that golf helped her in soccer.
She spent around $300 on her first set of clubs shortly after college. Her first time out, Hamm became so frustrated that the new 7-iron wound up in a thicket bush out of anger.
“I needed that 7-iron to play so I had to swallow my pride,” she said. “I came out all scratched up and bloody and it taught me that, like soccer, if you get mad, that effort makes a difference.”
Hamm planned to watch Thursday’s USA World Cup game on television before heading to France in a week to hopefully cheer on the Americans toward a title.
“They are immensely talented and fun to watch,” Hamm said of this year’s top-ranked squad.
• Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson are paired together for the first two rounds. All are former major champions but perhaps lesser known is each won the Girls’ Junior PGA Championship twice: Park (2001, ’02), Thompson (2007, ’09) and Jutanugarn (2011, ’12).
• The tournament tees off Thursday morning with 99 of the top 100 players on this year’s LPGA money list in the field. Mo Martin, No. 97 in the rankings, withdrew Sunday because of an injury.
• Fourteen consecutive LPGA events have been won by players in their 20s.