“The next Lee Ye-won? That’s the one I hear the most.”

Kim Min-byul (20-photo) didn’t win a title on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Tour last year, her rookie season, but her 12 top-10 finishes, including three runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes, earned her third place on the money list and sixth place on the money list (745 million won). His Rookie of the Year title was even more impressive, as he won a three-way battle with Bang Shin-sil (2 wins) and Hwang Yoo-min (1 win) for the top spot in the Korean Rookie Big Three.

“I had some regrets, and there were many moments when I thought I wasn’t good enough, but I was very proud of my first year because I won the Rookie of the Year, which was one of my goals,” said Kim. “I’m grateful for the season because I was able to earn money and do good things while playing the game I love.” Kim donated her debut winnings to the local newspaper in her hometown of Chuncheon to raise money for the needy several times last year.

‘Rookie of the Year without a win’ is unfortunate. Kim Min-byul battled Hong Ji-won and Madasom to a second overtime match at the Korea Women’s Open last year (June), but fell short, and then lost in an extended match against Hwang Yoo-min at the Daewoo Women’s MBN Women’s Open (July). She had many more chances, but ended the season without a win.

“When I saw other rookies winning, I was greedy and wanted it badly, but that was my biggest regret. But I think everyone has their own pace, and I’m going to do well this winter.”

Kim Min-byul said she’s been getting a lot of compliments lately about becoming the next Lee Ye-won. They want her to follow in the footsteps of Lee, who was crowned “Rookie of the Year without a win” in 2022 after missing out on many opportunities with three runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes, and became “mainstream” in two years by winning three titles last season, as well as the grand prize, prize money, and first place in hitting average. “There are a lot of expectations because we have the same title,” said Kim Min Byul, “but Ye Won trained really hard last winter and it paid off, so I think I need to work hard this year to be able to say the same. This winter training is more important than the results and confidence she has gained so far.

Kim will depart for Palm Springs, California, on April 14, where she will train for over a month. “I plan to focus on my short game around the greens, shots within 100 meters, and putts, which I feel are lacking,” he said. “I am leaving this year with a more special determination than last year when I was preparing for my debut season.”

Being the detail-oriented person he is, he also has a number of specific goals for the new year. “Last year, I planned to finish in the top 10 10 times, and I did 12 times. It’s not as easy as I thought, but this year I want to get 12 top-10s as soon as possible, and I want to win multiple titles. Last year I missed the cut three times, and this year I want to make the cut in every tournament.”

If he achieves all of his goals, he’ll actually have the most powerful target on his back. It’s a big dream to more than double down on the championship puzzle he couldn’t solve in his first year.

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