By Yi Whan-woo
The neck-and-neck competition for the U.S. Womens Open title between two Korean ladies, Ryu So-yeon and Seo Hee-kyung, reminded fans of the rivalry between the pair at local tournaments.
Ryu, the eventual winner, was only at the U.S. Open after receiving an invitation after finishing among the top five earners on the Korean Tour last year. The Ryu-Seo rivalry dates back to 2009 in which each golfer had their highest number of KLPGA wins since their professional debut. Ryu won four titles while Seo had five in 25 competitions.
It took three years for Seo, following her KLPGA debut in 2005, before her first triumph in April 2008 at the Lotte Mart Open. Seo, however, was relentless afterwards as she claimed six titles in that year.
Ryu made her professional debut in 2007, coming in 35th at the China Ladies Open, the only event the now 21-year-old appeared in that year.
With each golfer improving, the race between the pair for KLPGA titles began to excite local fans in 2009.
Ryu began to show her potential winning four times, including her maiden KLPGA title in April at the Sports Seoul Open, and was also a runner-up three times.
Seo also had her first victory of 2009 in April at the Lotte Mart Open finishing four strokes ahead of seventh-placed Ryu.
The Lotte Mart champion captured her second win of the season at the next tournament, the Taeyoung Open, in May, while Ryu slipped to 29th.
Ryu bounced back later that month to take the Doosan Match Play Championship, ahead of her rival who ended in ninth.
Ryu had the edge over Seo that summer, claiming three titles in a row. The third-year KLPGA player won the Woori Ladies Championship and S-Oil Champions Invitational in June and again triumphed at the SBS Charity Open in August. Seo, on the other hand, came in 13th, 19th, and sixth in the respective tournaments.
Seo then ended the year on a high, securing three more titles. In October, she lifted the trophy at the Hite Championship and Star Tour Grand Final, in which Ryu could only manage fourth each time.
Seo was then victorious at the CAPS Championships in November, with Ryu, 10th.
The pair had not drawn attention abroad, until they became the first South Koreans to take the top two places at the U.S. Womens Open. Ryu had previously won only once this year, with a solitary win in 2010, while Seo hasnt tasted victory since the 2009 season.