“I want to be remembered as a player with a good smile”…Bomi Lee on leaving Japanese golf

“Smile Candy” Lee Bomi, 35 (pictured), who dominated Japanese women’s golf, is preparing for her “last dance. She will retire from the Japan Women’s Professional Golf (JLPGA) Tour next month at the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, after 13 years on the tour. “I’m going to the driving range every day to improve my swing in order to give my fans a good show,” Ibomi told The Korea Economic Daily on Sunday, just over a month before her retirement tournament. “My goal is to give my fans good energy until the final round.”

Lee is credited with bringing the “K-golf” craze to Japan. She made her debut on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Tour in 2009 and won the money list for two consecutive years before joining the JLPGA Tour in 2011. In her 13-year career on the JLPGA Tour, Lee has won 21 titles and swept individual titles such as most wins, stroke average, and the grand prize in 2015 and 2016. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was awarded a permanent seeding on the KLPGA Tour. Only eight players on the KLPGA Tour are permanently seeded, including Park Se-ri and Park In-bee.

His main weapon is a precise iron shot. His caddie, Shigenori Shimizu, who has 17 wins on the JLPGA Tour with Ibomi, said, “Ibomi is the kind of player that if you say, ‘How many yards with a carry,’ she will hit that distance.” His precise iron shots and ever-present smile endeared him to Japanese golf fans. In 2016, Ibomi’s character, “Bomi-chan,” appeared in the Japanese anime “Changu is Unstoppable.

When his signature iron shot disappeared, he began to slump. After winning the prize money for two years in a row, the psychological pressure grew. His winning streak stopped, and the vicious cycle continued with his performance deteriorating under the pressure. “I decided to retire when I saw myself cheering for other players during tournaments,” he confessed.

Earlier this year, Ibomi announced his retirement from the Japan Tour. Although he announced his retirement at the last minute, he said he was very disappointed. “I often laugh on the way to the driving range because I think it will be cool when I finish my retirement,” she said. “I don’t have any thoughts about this retirement, and I just want to give my fans a good show.”

Recently, there have been concerns that women’s golf in South Korea is in crisis. Fewer and fewer Korean players are playing overseas. “Even in Japan, I used to play with about 20 Korean players, but now there are only about 10,” Lee said, analyzing that “while the Korean tour environment has improved, the path to the overseas tours has become more difficult and narrower.”

In his 15 years on the tour, the happiest moment was when he received a permanent seeding. “It felt like a great reward and recognition for a life spent playing golf,” he said. Permanent seeding on the KLPGA Tour is now referred to as a “star in the sky. The criteria used to be 20 wins on the KLPGA Tour and 20 wins on the top tours in the U.S., Europe and Japan, but now it has been raised to 30.

“It’s unfortunate that the standard for permanent seeding is so high that it will discourage players from challenging themselves,” he said. “Female players go through a lot of changes when they get married and have children, and when they want to take a break and stop playing golf, the permanent seeding is a good goal to encourage them to say, ‘I’m going to give it another shot,’ but I think the 30-win threshold is too high, and it makes them give up. I think a more realistic goal would encourage them to play for a long time.”

“Golf is still hard,” said Ibomi, who was once crowned Japan’s golf queen. “I’ve never thought of my swing as pretty, and I’m still working on it. What works on the range doesn’t always translate to the field, and that’s what I feel every weekend as an amateur golfer 안전놀이터.”

“I want to be remembered as the guy who smiles,” he said. “My fans tell me that they like that I’m always cheerful and positive. I think that’s how I live my life, and I want to continue to be that person.”

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