Katie Yoo Rebounds to win Women's Orlando International
Katie Yoo lost a four-shot lead in two holes, but rebounded to win by 3<br>(Orlando International Amateur photo)
Katie Yoo lost a four-shot lead in two holes, but rebounded to win by 3
(Orlando International Amateur photo)

ORLANDO, FL (December 30, 2017) - On the outside, Katie Yoo was calm and collected, but on the inside, she was anticipating the worst.

“I’m probably going to get flipped,” Yoo thought (it’s the term she uses for leaderboard leapfrog) as she made the turn in the final round of the Orlando International Amateur on Dec. 30 and promptly made triple bogey, her only one of the week.

But Yoo, 16, often doesn’t give herself enough credit. She’s a shy junior golfer who came through to win the event by three shots, and secure what is arguably the biggest title of her young career.

Yoo had a one-shot lead on Kennesaw State junior Roanne Tomlinson at the start of the final round, and increased that to four after the front nine at Palm Course at Walt Disney World Golf Complex but as Yoo made triple-bogey at No. 10, Tomlinson went to birdie No. 11. Suddenly, the two were tied and both players dug in.

“I was so frustrated after my triple,” Yoo said, “but (Tomlinson) had a hard day, too.”

Yoo didn’t make another mistake, finishing the day with six pars and a birdie at the 14th, while Tomlinson’s bogeys at Nos. 15 and 18 sunk her.

“It’s just one of those days,” said Tomlinson, the Englishwoman who charted her way to Kennesaw State after two years on the community college circuit.

In an event that highlights the diversity and global nature of this game, Yoo is a fitting winner. She only took up the game four years ago, after her family moved to the United States. A native of South Korea, it was a longtime dream of her father Sung Hun Yoo to bring his family here after visiting as a child.

Katie Yoo was born in Incheon, South Korea, and lived there until she was five. The Yoo family then moved to the Australian countryside in 2006, in a town not far from Sydney. Yoo learned to speak English there, but the traces of an Australian accent are faint. After a short stint back in South Korea in 2009, the family made its permanent move stateside, first to a suburb of Atlanta, then south to the greater Orlando area.

That’s when Yoo learned to golf, to the great delight of her father, who rolled Yoo’s push-cart through the fairways of the Palm Course and helped his daughter find yardages and read greens.

“He’s not a golfer but he loves golf,” Yoo explained. “He even goes out when it snows.”

Yoo measures her success in terms of American Junior Golf Association titles won. She proudly uses a gray AJGA winner’s bag with an American flag stamped on the front pocket. She won that at the AJGA Junior at Gray Plantation (Louisiana) in May. She entered the final round of that event with a four-shot lead, and kept it.

While the Orlando International Amateur victory was nice, Yoo really hopes it somehow helps secure her a spot in the AJGA’s upcoming Annika Invitational.

“I always wanted to win an AJGA Invitational,” Yoo said dreamily. They’re top events for elite juniors, and Yoo got to play in two this past year. She’s on the priority list for the Annika, but has to wait until business resumes at the AJGA after the new year to find out if she’s in.

It would mean a lot for Yoo to meet Annika Sorenstam, the tournament host and LPGA Hall of Famer, but Yoo already has a role model. That’s Na Yeon Choi, the nine-time LPGA winner.

Choi and Yoo used to live in the same Windermere, Fla., neighborhood, and Choi, 30, was good to the budding golfer. They played together three times, and Choi often turned up with hand-me downs or unused equipment for Yoo. Yoo’s most cherished item is a pair of shoes with Choi’s initials.

“I always wanted to go pro, but when I met her, I thought, ‘Oh, I know how to do this,’” said Yoo, even though she hasn’t ruled out playing for college first (as long as it’s in a warm-weather climate).

Every win moves Yoo a little closer to achieving all her goals.

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ABOUT THE Women's Orlando International Amateur

The Women's Orlando International Amateur Championship is an annual golf tournament gathering high-level amateur golfers from the United States of America and abroad. 54-hole stroke play championship, playing 18 holes per day.

Open to low-handicap amateurs, players who play college golf, players who have qualified for any of the current year's USGA or R&A championships, and those who have the recommendation of their country’s Federation or Association.

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