(Asiad) Teen golfer hopes medals will lead to ceremonial 1st pitch in baseball game

As an 18-year-old amateur, South Korean golfer Yoo Hyun-jo considered it "an honor" to be playing alongside world-class professionals at the Asian Games in China this week.

After holding off some of those very pros, including world No. 2 Yin Ruoning from China, for the bronze medal in Hangzhou on Sunday, an even bigger honor for Yoo would be to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for her favorite baseball club, the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization.

Yoo won the bronze medal in the individual competition at 16-under 272. She also joined teammates Kim Min-sol and Lim Ji-yoo for the team silver medal behind Thailand.

She said she hoped those two medals would lead to some fun opportunities off the course.

"Hopefully, with these two medals, I hope people will start recognizing me," Yoo said with a smile. "And I want to throw out the ceremonial first pitch someday."

She is such a huge fan of the team that the cover of her scorecard holder was adorned with a cartoon character wearing a Tigers jersey. She had even kept track of injuries to some of the Tigers' top players, including outfielder Na Sung-bu, as they are fighting for a postseason spot.

When she wasn't staying on top of baseball news, Yoo was playing some great golf here at the West Lake International Golf Course. She shot a bogey-free 65 on Sunday to snatch the bronze medal and hold off Chinese star Lin Xiyu by three shots. Yin Ruoning of China, world No. 2 and an LPGA major champion, finished at eight-under.

"Obviously, this gave me a lot of confidence but not all LPGA players played their best here," Yoo said. "So I don't think I should be too satisfied with myself here. I will try to become a player who continues to get better and better."

Yoo said she was in such a zone that she didn't even remember exactly how many birdies she made coming down the stretch. She had six over her final nine holes.

"I knew I wasn't too far off the bronze medal position, and I wanted to go for at least the silver medal," Yoo said. "I could see the leaderboard along the way, and so I wanted to really stay focused."

Yoo said she was pleased with every shot in her bag but was especially happy about the way she drove the ball all week.

"I am a long hitter, and long hitters tend to miss a lot of fairways. I don't think I missed any fairway today," Yoo said. "My hard work really paid off here."

This was Yoo's first Asian Games, but Yoo said it could also end up being her last. She plans to turn professional later this fall. Though the Asian Games golf tournament opened the doors to pros for the first time this year, South Korea had trouble getting its top pros on the board for the event, being held in the middle of the LPGA and Korea LPGA (KLPGA) seasons.

"I don't know when I am going to play at the Asian Games again, so I wanted to make this one count," Yoo said. "I took each and every shot seriously."

Her first goal as a pro is to make it to the KLPGA Tour, and the U.S. circuit can come later.

"Of course, I dream of playing on the LPGA Tour someday, but I prefer to take slow steps toward that goal," Yoo said. "I think it will help me with my development as a player. I want to play on the KLPGA first and then try to knock on the LPGA doors after I become a better player."

Source: Yonhap News Agency