South Korean superstar So Yeon Ryu ended up donating nearly $85,000 to the Australian bushfire relief funds after she finished joint runner-up in the ISPS Handa Vic Open, but she has not finished helping.
The likeable 29-year-old Korean, who has an Australian coach (Cameron McCormick), said today she would again donate half of any prizemoney she earns at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide this week. If she wins, and on form there is every chance of that, she could be handing over more than $100,000 to the fund.
“I already made a decision, as soon as I heard about what happened in Australia,” Ryu said as she arrived in Adelaide today. “I thought about it, ‘how can I help?’ I just thought maybe I’ll donate half what I earn.
“I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about it. I didn’t even know how much money I was going to make.”
Ryu, a former world No. 1 and a two-time major winner, is a big believer in climate change, to the extent that she travels with a tumbler rather than forming a habit of grabbing another bottle of water.
“I think this is not only a problem for Australia,” she said of the bushfires. “I think it’s a whole-world thing.”
Having made the decision to donate prizemoney and announcing it on VO Radio on Sunday, Ryu said it made her feel good and actually helped her game.
This is her first appearance at an Australian Open since 2018, when she entertained the media with stories of her love of Vegemite and Australian slang. At the time, she had another Australian coach, Ian Triggs, and an Australian caddie, Tom Watson.
On Sunday she shot a brilliant closing 68 to reach a playoff with fellow-Koreans Hye-Jin Choi and Hee Young Park, but she fell out of the three-way playoff at the second hole. Looking back, she could point to her tee shot on the 72nd hole as a regret, since it sailed hard left into the marshland beside the 18th and left her needing to take a penalty drop.
But Ryu has changed her tune after a disappointing 2019 season in which her world ranking fell from No. 3 to No. 18.
“Of course, I was disappointed with what happened and my 72nd hole but I thought about it and I have more things to appreciate instead of me playing one bad shot,” she said today. “I was glad to be in contention again. I enjoyed every single hole.
“One thing I’ve changed is I didn’t drag my heart. I just live my life and I guess I’ve finally found peace. That’s helped me enjoy this game better.
“If I look back last year, every time I had a press conference, I kept talking about the balance between my personal life and my golfer’s life, but I had a feeling that I was like pretending to be like that. But I didn’t really do that. I didn’t have a good balance and I pretended.
“This time I really want to do it. I want golf to be part of my life instead of my everything. It’s easy not doing it when you’re struggling. You keep grinding and grinding and then you’re addicted. That’s how I ended up last year. You’re always learning and that was my biggest lesson last year. I’m so much happier. I’m still going to do my best to achieve my goal for 2020 but it’s more important to be happy.’’
Ryu was disappointed like all the players to learn that the LPGA Tour had cancelled its scheduled tournaments in Thailand and Singapore over the next few weeks, having already cancelled the early-March tournament in China – all out of caution around the coronavirus.
But she was not playing Thailand next week and she understood the reasoning. “I know the LPGA did their best to make the best decision. Hopefully all this disease goes away and we find some peae so we can play good golf.’’