“Last season was the most special season…I want to please you like ‘Bang Sill’ this year”
“Looking back now, it’s unbelievable. It was one of the most special years of my life, like, did I really do it?”
Bang, 20 (pictured), wrote a cinematic success story last year when she made her debut on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) after coming through the amateur ranks. She started as a conditional seeded player who played on both tours, rose through the ranks by winning on the regular tour and finished her first season with two trophies. The “locker room syndrome” that she created at the KLPGA Championship (April), her first regular tour event, with a long shot from 300 yards out, was the driving force behind her early season surge on the KLPGA Tour.
The ‘prelude to the long hit’ came during winter training in Nong Khai, Thailand. “I wasn’t a great long hitter before,” he says, “but during the training camp I improved my driver distance by 20 to 25 meters. I was hoping for a 10-meter improvement, but I didn’t expect that.”
The key was working on her empty swing alongside her physical training. By consistently practicing her bin swing using various tools, her distance increased, and she always swung at 100% power during competitions. “The older girls who knew me were very surprised at first,” she says, “but the extra distance gave me more chances to catch the short clubs and made it easier to play.”
The only way for Bang to break out of her conditional seeding was to win. He did just that at the E1 Charity Open (May), his fifth full-time Tour event, but then went through a slump that saw him miss five cuts in 10 events by early September. As the cold winds began to blow, he regained his pace and finished the season with nine top-10 finishes, including a win at the aggressive Eastern Construction Korea Land Trust Championship (October).
“I felt good about the ‘Bangshinsil Syndrome,’ but I also had to fight the pressure. I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the game and was shaky throughout, but I was able to get back on track by going back to my roots and solving things one by one.
“I was happier with my second win when I doubted I could win again than I was with my first win,” said Bang, who experienced both spectacular success and a brief slump in his first professional season. “After that, I was able to relax and take it easy.
Bang left Jeonhoon for Nongkai again this year. “I will focus on improving my driver accuracy and improving my short game and putts, which are lacking,” he said before his departure on Dec. 12. “This year, I want to have no ups and downs and win at least three tournaments, more than last year.” After that, he plans to take on the U.S. stage once he’s fully prepared in Korea.
He revealed that his name Seok Ja is a name that he has ‘special faith in,’ and said, “I was called ‘Bangsil’ and ‘Bangsilbangsil’ because I smiled a lot from a young age. I feel better when they call me ‘Bangsil’ than my name,” he said, smiling broadly, “I will give a lot of joy to my fans this year.”