So Yeon Ryu: Profile of a Champion

April 2, 2017; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; So Yeon Ryu following her completed fourth round of the ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills CC - Dinah Shore Tournament Cou. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
April 2, 2017; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; So Yeon Ryu following her completed fourth round of the ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills CC - Dinah Shore Tournament Cou. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

So Yeon Ryu is a champion in every respect – poised, athletically talented, gracious on and off the course, and with a game in her bag that could easily net a 2nd Major title in 2017.

So Yeon Ryu has been largely overshadowed by her good friend Inbee Park over the past decade, although I have long regarded Ryu as Park’s equal on the course. Unfortunately, the recent explosion of young talent in women’s golf, playing on the Ladies European Tour as well as the LPGA, has focused the spotlight away from Ryu.

Throughout the past ten years the 26-year old Ryu – who like her peer Michelle Wie started playing pro golf as a teenager – has consistently delivered one of the finest on-course performances in the pro golf world.

As Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, and Lydia Ko have battled it out for the no. 1 spot in the women’s game, Ryu has quietly lurked inside the top 10 in the world rankings since 2011. With her win at the 2017 ANA Inspiration, that has changed. Ryu’s not lurking now. She’s charging the top of the world rankings.

In the aftermath of Rancho Mirage, even as the focus remained on Lexi Thompson and that controversial 4 shot penalty, Ryu vaulted over Ariya Jutanugarn as soon as she climbed out of Poppy’s Pond. With practically no fanfare, So Yeon Ryu is positioned to edge Lydia Ko off the rankings pinnacle she’s been holding for some 77 weeks.

So Yeon Ryu, 2011 US Women’s Open Champion

Anticipating In Gee Chun’s arrival on golf’s big stage by half a decade, So Yeon Ryu earned her LPGA Tour card with her 2011 US Women’s Open victory in a playoff against countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo.

But like In Gee Chun, So Yeon Ryu didn’t arrive at her US Women’s Open triumph by accident as a fortunate, if inexperienced rookie pro. She had been playing golf since childhood and had been a member of the Korean National Golf team from 2005-2007. She was a gold medalist in both individual and team events at the 2006 Asian Games.

By the time she arrived at the 1st tee at the Broadmore she had put a Cactus Tour win and 6 KLPGA victories on her professional resume.

Ryu’s US Women’s Open win at the Broadmore came at a time when the game was beginning to understand just how very good the Korean women were on the links. She was the 3rd Korean to hoist the Harton S. Semple trophy in 4 years.

Ryu and the Korean Juggernaut

So Yeon Ryu
Inbee Park (KOR) holds up the Harton S. Semple trophy after winning the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Fast forwarding to the present, So Yeon Ryu is a member of that generation of Korean golfers who have wrapped their arms around the eight pound Semple Trophy 6 times in the past decade – Inbee Park (2008, 2013), Eun-Hee Ji (2009), So Yeon Ryu (2011), and Na Yeon Choi (2012).

Ruy is as effective in team play as she is in individual stroke play competition. She and Park make a stunning playing pair in team competition. Watching them work together on the golf course is like watching a well-oiled dynamo. Together they captured the 2014 Mission Hills World Ladies Championship and the 2015 World Ladies Championship.

Ryu has also played for Korea twice at the Tour’s International Crown with the same grace, efficiency, and panache she displays in individual competition. In 2014 and again in 2016 she posted 3-1-0 records for Team Korea.

Ryu Consistently Delivers Championship-Level Play

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So Yeon Ryu has compiled an impressive record in the pro game. She has earned 17 victories worldwide, two of them Major championship titles. She rarely misses the cut. In 2015 she finished inside the top 5 at the US Women’s Open and the RICOH Women’s British Open, and she followed in 2016 with top 10s at the ANA Inspiration, Women’s PGA Championship, US Women’s Open, and Evian Championship.

Is there a 2nd 2017 Major championship in Ryu’s bag? I certainly wouldn’t rule her out. So Yeon Ryu’s game looks to be in superb condition at this point in the season.

She leads the Tour this year in GIR (83.89%) and, not surprisingly, in scoring average (68.05). Although her putting stats don’t seem to predict a standout performance on the greens, she’s among the Tour’s leaders in the production of birdies and eagles. There’s every reason to expect So Yeon Ryu to claim a 2nd Major championship title in 2017.

Next: 2017 LPGA Rookies to Watch

An avid violinist with a degree in sports business from Yonsei University, So Yeon Ryu is a picture of contrasts. She’s widely admired by her Tour peers for her sense of fair play. She is consistently pleasant and fiercely competitive.