Ko Gun-taek (고군택) who became the first player on the Korean Professional Golf Association (KPGA) Korean Tour to win three tournaments in five years, is in a “happy dilemma” over the various benefits that come with winning a major tournament.
At a press conference on Tuesday after winning the 39th Shinhan Donghae Open (total prize money of 1.4 billion won) at the Ocean Course (par 72) of Club 72 Country Club in Jung-gu, Incheon, Ko said, “It feels great to have three wins in the season. I’m even more pleased that I was able to do it by competing with great players from the Korean Tour, Asian Tour, and Japan Professional Golf Tour (JGTO).”
Ko shaved four strokes off his score on the day to tie with Pachara Kongwatmai (Thailand) at 19-under-par 269, then birdied the first hole of the extra day to beat Kongwatmai, who held on for the win.
Ko, who won his first Korean Tour event at the season-opening DB Insurance PromiOpen in April, followed it up with two victories at the Honors K-Solago CC Hanjangsang Invitational in July.
It has been five years since Park Sang-hyun (three wins) in 2018 that a Korean Tour player has won more than three titles in a season.
“Until last year, I had failed while competing for the championship, and I thought it was all a process, and I think that the good experience acted as a springboard, and this year, ‘potential’ burst out and it seems to be working exceptionally well.” “Through the experience of winning the first championship, which was difficult, good things came to mind in the subsequent championships, and it seems to lead to good results,” he said.
Technically, he said, “I putted the best in the tournament I won.”
Ko, who started the day with a four-shot lead, bogeyed the 10th (par-4) and double bogeyed the 13th (par-5) to fall three strokes behind Kong Wat Mai, but three birdies later forced overtime.
Kong, who had already shaved nine strokes off his deficit on the day, dropped his second shot in the water in the extra round and was out of contention, but Ko kept the pressure on by sinking a tricky par putt before Goon-Taek’s birdie putt.
“When Kongwatmai’s second shot went in the water, I thought I had a chance, but when he made the par putt first, I knew it was going to be tough. “My short putts were going in today, and my birdie putt in overtime was similar to that, so I thought I’d hit it confidently,” he said.
With two of his three wins coming in overtime, he said, “Both overtime matches were played on par-5 holes, and birdies seem to win the day. I think it’s because I kept aiming for birdies and working hard on every shot.”
The winner of the tournament, which is co-sponsored by the Korean Tour, JGTO and Asian Tour, will be seeded for five years on the Korean Tour and two years on the JGTO and Asian Tour.
In addition to the prize money, the tournament’s privileges for the winner are also top-notch, and winning the tournament paved the way for Go Gun-taek to enter the overseas stage in earnest.
When asked about this, Ko had a surprising answer. He said he applied to join the military last week after this season.
“I haven’t thought of a specific plan yet,” he said, wondering if he should change his plans when the KPGA officials told him about the five-year seed.
“If I am guaranteed five years, I can afford it, so I can play the Asian Tour or JGTO next year,” he said, adding, “I will think about it a little more.”
He showed his determination by saying, “I heard a lot of seniors say that the JGTO has a good course and environment, so if you play there, your skills will improve.”
Before he can think about the stage he will play next year, he has the challenge of ‘winning four seasons’ in front of him.
Four wins in a season is a record that only Choi Sang-ho holds on the Korean Tour, having done it in 1985, 1986, and 1991.
There are still eight tournaments left on the Korean Tour this season, so there’s plenty of time for Go Gun-taek to make it happen.
“I’m honored to have won three titles this season,” he said, “because they were won by some of the best players on the tour. Now that I have three wins, I think I need to raise my goal,” he said, adding, “I will work hard in the remaining tournaments for a fourth win.”
“I know that I can go directly to the second qualifying tournament of the U.S. Professional Golf (PGA) secondary Conferry Tour depending on my Korean Tour results until the Hyundai Marine Choi Kyung-ju Invitational in October, so I plan to challenge that as well if the conditions are right,” he added. 토토