|JEJU, South Korea – Hyun-Ji Kim shot a final round of seven-under 65 on Sunday to retain the Daishin Securities Tomato M Korea European Ladies Masters, a co-sanctioned event between the Korean LPGA and Ladies European Tour.
Starting the round four shots off the lead, the 22-year-old from Incheon fired seven birdies in warm and benign conditions at Haevichi Country Club in Jeju, South Korea.
She set off with back-to-back birdies at the first and second holes before picking up three more shots at the fourth, eighth and ninth for a five-under-par outward total of 31.
She was one stroke behind the leader, Korean No.2 Soo-Jin Yang, before adding two more birdies at the 14th and 15th and setting the clubhouse lead with a three-round total of 208, eight-under-par.
The taekwondo black-belt joined the Ladies European Tour after her victory at the same tournament last year, which she won at the second hole of sudden-death at the nearby Cypress Country Club.
As she stood giggling by the 18th green, awaiting another possible play-off, she breathed a sigh of relief as Yang’s birdie putt to tie slipped past the hole.
Yang, who held a share of the lead going into the final round with Melissa Reid, was forced to share second with the 2008 champion Hee-Kyung Seo. Ha-Neul Kim finished a shot back in fourth, with Hye-Jin Jung fifth and Korean amateur Julie Yang alone in sixth on four-under-par.
“I feel lucky because I thought it could go to a play-off and Soo-Jin Yang is the second ranked played on the Korean LPGA Tour in 2010,” said Kim, through translation.
“I knew it would be very difficult to successfully defend a title but I’m very happy because I did it with my best ever score as a professional.”
Her 65 was the best of the tournament, but South African Lee-Anne Pace showed why she is the 2010 European money leader by finishing with a final round of 66. She tied for seventh place at three-under-par with Yoon-Kyung Hur.
Pace registered six birdies, with five on the back nine, which she played first, including four in a row from the 14th. She said: “Today we made a birdie on two, a really good birdie. I hit a six-iron in to six feet, downhill, really fast inside left. After I got that putt I knew my putting is going to be good because that was a tricky putt and I made a good stroke on it. After that, I knew it was going to be a good day. Then I made another good putt on the next hole and I was just cruising. I made four birdies in a row and every time I made a birdie, you’re just a little bit more ready to make another one.
“I was three over and so far out of it, three birdies and I’m right in there. Then I made four. I guess you just start chasing. I like to chase: its fun!”
Meanwhile England’s Melissa Reid, who held a share of the lead after the first and second round, closed with a 75 to share ninth with Paraguayan Julieta Granada and four other players. England’s Laura Davies closed with a round of 72 for a share of 45th.
The players move on to India next week for the Hero Honda Women's India Open, which will take place from November 11-13 at the DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon, near New Delhi.