'Dumbo' Chun wins US Open at first try

Chun In Gee's win sees her make a leap to No. 10 in the world. The South Korean honed her skills after her initial shots drew teasing from her father.
Chun In Gee's win sees her make a leap to No. 10 in the world. The South Korean honed her skills after her initial shots drew teasing from her father. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LANCASTER (Pennsylvania) • As a maths prodigy with a near genius IQ level of 138, it is safe to say the nickname "Dumbo" is not a reference to South Korean golfer Chun In Gee's intelligence.

The 20-year-old became the latest South Korean to score top marks on the LPGA Tour by bagging the US Open on Sunday, becoming the first player to win the tournament at the first bid since compatriot Birdie Kim in 2005.

The US Open trophy has become a frequent visitor to Seoul over the last decade, with Koreans winning seven of the last 11 titles.

Chun's triumph was the 12th by a South Korea-born golfer in 17 LPGA Tour events this year.

Tagged a "star in the making" since turning pro in 2012, she has seven wins on the Korean tour, including three this year.

Enrolled at Seoul's prestigious Korea University, Chun was not a natural the first time she picked up a club, and had it not been for some fatherly teasing, her career path may have been very different.

"I really enjoyed studying and I was doing pretty well at school, but one day my father and my father's friend took me to a golf range and they asked me to hit some shots," she said.

"I tried to swing the club but the result wasn't that good.

"Then, my father and my father's friend teased me a little bit and I got fired up, and I felt I could do it. I decided to spend some time in golf and I fell in love with golf like that."

With a long graceful swing that packs a punch at impact, Chun's game is built around precision iron play and a stellar short game.

On Sunday, she clawed her way back from four strokes off the lead to card a four-under 66 at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania, pipping compatriot Amy Yang by a single shot.

The win earned her more than US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) in prize money and saw her vault 10 places in the world rankings to No. 10.

Picking up vital pieces of information is something Chun uses to her advantage. "My ears are always open, I listen to other people carefully," she told Golf Digest in 2013.

"That's how I got the nickname Dumbo."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline ''Dumbo' Chun wins US Open at first try'. Print Edition | Subscribe