Kore Pro-Am swung into action for its 11th annual year on Monday on the course at Journey at Pechanga.
This year, 25 LPGA pros teamed up with community amateurs in the scramble-format golf tournament to vie for the No. 1 spot.
The winning trophy went home with a team from Axalta Dura Coat Products — the event’s presenting sponsor, comprising Dr. Mike Hong, his wife Lorrie, Kenny Hahn and Nathalie Silva — who played with pro Kelly Tan, who has the distinction of being the second-ever Malaysian to play on the LPGA tour.
It was an especially meaningful victory for the team, which shot under 15, as it marked Dr. Hong’s first tournament win since Pro-Am’s debut showing 11 years ago.
The Kore Challenge, a mini event which invited both pros and amateurs to test their skills in longest drive, putting and chipping, saw in particular a win for Vicky Hurst, a Pro-Am mainstay who drove 293 yards.
“The talent of the LPGA players who come here — they’re wonderful players,” said Bill Anderson, vice president of player development at Pechanga Resort & Casino, which has host sponsored the event for the last five years. “It’s fun to watch them on the leaderboard the day before in a major [tournament], and then coming out the next day and playing with us.”
Through the years, Pro-Am has seen some of the LPGA’s top names come through its program, from Inbee Park to Na Yeon Choi. Pros said they see the event as a celebration of community support.
“I participate in 30 events a year,” said Jenny Shin, a returning South Korean pro. “But because this is less of a competitive tournament, I can enjoy myself more, feel more relaxed and get to meet more people.”
Shin wasn’t the only returning pro. Hurst has participated annually since her rookie year in 2009. “I love to come back every year,” Hurst said. “It’s the only one that is specifically supporting Asian players, and it’s cool that we’re not just Asian players, but now have foreign players as well. Every year, it just gets bigger, and everyone comes out to be a part of the party.”
Mi Hyang Lee, another player for whom this Pro-Am was not her first, agreed. “I feel like this event gets bigger every year I come back. There’s more cameras here than in the LPGA. It’s a special experience each time,” she said. “It’s very nice to know that, despite the fact that I’m a Korean player, people in America are interested in my career. I’m always happy to be invited.”
The roster included Chella Choi, Karen Chung (in her rookie year), Simin Feng, Jennifer Ha (another rookie), Hurst, Tiffany Joh, Megan Khang (the LPGA’s first Hmong and Laotian player), Mindy Kim, Lee, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Xi Yu Lin, Lee Lopez, Annie Park, Hee Young Park, Demi Runas, Shin, Kelly Shon, Sarah-Jane Smith, Christine Song, Tan, Emily Tubert, Ayako Uehara, Jing Yan, Kim Kaufman and Sky Seo.
For amateur players, the event was more than a chance to interact with some of their favorite athletes — it was a lesson in golf. “It’s a little demoralizing [playing with pros],” joked Danny Im, a golf enthusiast, K-pop singer and TV host who came out to Journey with his family. “You learn a lot and see how they hit. Playing with a better player always improves you. Playing with a pro? It’s fun. It’s really fun.”
“[Playing with an LPGA pro] is a one-of-a-kind experience you cannot easily have,” said Eva Sim, another amateur. “And this is a great opportunity as well for inviting [my company’s] clients out to play.”
This year’s sponsors, in addition to Axalta Dura Coat Products and Pechanga Resort & Casino, included first-time participant BMW, Private Internet Access, 011 Communications, AmWest, APW, Asiana Airlines, Calywire, CJ E&M, Colosseum Athletics, Ten Advertising and product sponsors Bescon USA, Bioderma, Decky, Johnnie Walker, Thunder Par App and Sapporo.
Kore Asian Media is a subsidiary of London Trust Media Inc., a diversified business focused on the technology and media industries.
Take a look at the photo gallery below:
Dr. Mike Hong of Axalta Dura Coat Products, second from right, and his wife Lorrie hold up their winning trophies with team members and LPGA Pro Kelly Tan, fourth from left, at Kore Pro-Am 2017. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
LPGA Pro Demi Runas with tee signs at Kore Pro-Am 2017. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
LPGA pros attend the Kore Pro-Am 2017 pairing party inside Eagle’s Nest at Pechanga Resort & Casino. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
Kore Pro-Am 2017 trophies on display. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
Guests take selfies inside the Kore Pro-Am 2017 pairing party. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
Kore Pro-Am 2017 press conference with LPGA pros. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
LPGA Pro Jenny Shin at Kore Pro-Am 2017. (Pechanga Creative Audio)
Players pose at the Kore Pro-Am 2017 press conference at Journey at Pechanga. (Pechanga Creative Audio)
LPGA Pro Jing Yan at Kore Pro-Am 2017 (Pechanga Creative Audio)
Kore Publisher James Ryu, right, with LPGA Pro Annie Park at Journey at Pechanga. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
LPGA Pro Vicky Hurst on the green at Kore Pro-Am 2017 (Pechanga Creative Audio)
LPGA Pro Sarah-Jane Smith takes a swing at Kore Pro-Am 2017 at Journey at Pechanga. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
Vicky Hurst swings for longest drive at Kore Pro-Am 2017. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
LPGA Pro Kim Kaufman poses with her amateur team at Kore Pro-Am 2017. (Jay Young/Kore Asian Media)
Visit koreproam.com for more information about the tournament.