(Reuters) – Lee Jeong-eun had a ‘6’ added to her surname on the Korean women’s golf tour to differentiate her from the five others that joined the circuit before her.
After Sunday’s victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, however, “Lee6” has certainly made a name for herself.
“I’m the sixth Jeong-eun Lee player, and that’s why they put it down as Jeongeun Lee6,” the 23-year-old South Korean said via an interpreter after winning the most prestigious title in women’s golf in South Carolina.
“But this is my lucky number too, so I would love to put it down as Lee6 as my last name.”
Lee, dubbed “Hot Six” by her legion of fans back home, is among a generation of Korean golfers inspired by trailblazer Pak Se-ri’s win at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open.
The ninth South Korean to win the championship, Korean players have won it 10 times in all, with Park In-bee claiming the championship twice.
Lee turned pro in 2016 and quickly handled the pressure of providing for her family, claiming Rookie of the Year honours on the Korean LPGA circuit, even as she started to sour on the vibe of the tour.
“Looking at my family situation back then, I thought about wanting to play golf because I wanted to support my family no matter what,” she said.
Switching to the U.S.-based LPGA Tour this year after winning qualifying school at the end of 2018, Lee found her feet quickly and arrived at the Women’s Open ranked 14th in the world.
“When I was in KLPGA, I actually wanted to stop playing because I wasn’t really enjoying too much about it,” she said.
“A lot of players are very competitive, severely competitive, so I didn’t really enjoy it that much.
“But when I came to the LPGA Tour, I started wanting to play more for a long time. I have a good time playing with a lot of LPGA players.”
Lee has no big plans to spend her $1 million after collecting the first seven-figure prize in women’s golf.
“I can eat ramen,” she said to laughter.
“That was my goal. If I finish the top five, I can buy shoes. But I can buy shoes and eat ramen. So it’s a double.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)