Why do Koreans dominate Americans on the LPGA? Jessica Korda has an idea

August 1, 2018

Jessica Korda is in England this week to compete in the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. While there, a reporter asked the LPGA star a question a lot of golf fans have on their minds: Why don’t Americans dominate LPGA leaderboards like they do in other sports?

Korda didn’t hesitate to offer a lengthy and thoughtful response.

The five-time LPGA champion boiled the problem down to one cause: a lack of formal competitive training for junior golfers in the United States.

“Honestly, I think they have a better developmental program for juniors,” Korda told reporters on Tuesday. “The Korean girls are dominating. They have a national team. Golf is an expensive sport. They pay for that. They travel to different countries and play a bunch.”

Speaking of the Korean players’ advantages, she added, “So in Korea, I know that they have to play two years on the Korean LPGA before they even come to the States. So they’ve already been a pro before they come to our tour. So as you call them rookies, they’ve won, you know, like 10 times professionally. And that’s a huge advantage coming here whereas if you see all of the American girls they might have played a year on the Symetra Tour or they’re fresh rookies.”

Jessica Korda and So Yeon Ryu
Korda (right) with So Yeon Ryu of South Korea, who is No. 4 in the world rankings.
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That system has shown incredible results for Korean golfers. They currently occupy five spots in the Women’s World Golf Rankings, including three of the top four positions. Korda is one of only two Americans in the top 10 (she’s at No. 9, while Lexi Thompson is 5th).

In Korda’s view, American junior golfers have no such system to compete with their counterparts in Asia. “I feel like one of the things that the U. S. doesn’t have is a national team and somebody to help the girls and the boys kind of grow through that process. There’s no like camps. Basically the kids play AJGAs in America to try and get into college, and then from college they get jobs or all that stuff.

“There’s not a developmental program, a team of some sort to either help them with their game, you know. Somebody sees a little bit of talent in a player, and they don’t have the funds to take them to all these tournaments, what are they going to do?”

Jessica Korda, LPGA
Jessica Korda eyes a shot from the rough during the second round of the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic.
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Despite this, Korda does see an example within the United States of a developmental program that golf could use as a model: tennis.

“I know that the USTA is — they’re doing a bunch of camps for tennis. They travel with the United States Tennis Association … they’re kind of taking the kids under their wings that way, which is great,” said Korda, whose parents are retired professional tennis players. “I would definitely love to see something like that happen for golf.”

Korda will try to become the first American major winner of 2018 this week in England. She tees off for the first round of the Women’s British Open at 12:14 p.m. ET on Thursday.