Golf

South Korea's Park Sung-hyun proud to see country lead resumption of sport

The 42nd KLPGA Championship, which begins on Thursday, will be the South Korean tour's first event since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the calendar. It will be played at the Lakewood Country Club in Yangju without spectators.

KLPGA Championship begins on Thursday in Yangju

Park Sung-hyun wears a face mask sits during media day as the South Korean women's golf tour starts up again with the KLPGA Championship opening on Thursday, an event that will be played without fans on the course. (The Associated Press)

With golf finally resuming when South Korea hosts the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Championship, world No. 3 Park Sung-hyun says she feels a sense of pride that her country is "leading the way" in a return for sport.

The 42nd KLPGA Championship, which begins on Thursday, will be the tour's first event since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the calendar. It will be played at the Lakewood Country Club in Yangju without spectators.

"Due to the coronavirus outbreaks, the U.S. hasn't started its games yet, but I am pleased and also proud of the fact that South Korea is leading the way for the resumption of sports," Park told reporters on Wednesday.

However, Park will be without her trusted caddie, David Jones, who was unable to travel to Korea because of the lockdown and restrictions on air travel.

"My caddie is Irish and the situation is not very good over there. They can't leave their house, they're with their kids," the 26-year-old Park said. "So I just asked a friend of mine in Korea in a hurry (to be my caddie)."

"The priority is the safety of the players, tournament officials and golf fans and (the event) will be broadcast," organizers said in a statement.

Organizers said social distancing will be practised by players and tournament officials. Players will also have hand sanitizers available. It was not clear if players would take coronavirus tests.

Defending champion Choi Hye-jin said she "can't wait" to return to the greens, although she said playing without fans would be a surreal experience.

A staff member sprays disinfectant before media day for the 42nd KLPGA Championship in Yangju, South Korea. (The Associated Press)

"It hit me the most when I heard the news that the games would have no spectators," Choi said. "It feels a little awkward when I think about how quiet the game is going to be since it's just us players. It'll feel like it's not a competition."

Kim Sei-young, who has 10 wins on the LPGA Tour, said she is still trying to figure out how to "reset" her goals after the Tokyo Olympics were pushed back by a year but is looking forward to competing on the LPGA Tour when it resumes.

"We've been told that the LPGA in the U.S. will resume in July, so I want to prepare well for that and show my best."

Tune in to CBC-TV and CBCSports.ca on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET to rewatch golf from the 2016 Rio Olympics on our weekly show Olympic Games Replay.

with files from Associated Press

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