Karen Chung finished the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship tied for 54th place. She completed 72 holes at Olympia Field Country Club at 3-over par 287. It was Chung’s first major championship, another milestone on the road to success as a professional golfer.
Chung’s experiences are typical for the majority of rookies on the LPGA Tour. The 22-year old Livingston, New Jersey native played three-and-a-half years of college golf at USC. In 2015-16, her final full season, she earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and was an honorable mention All-American. Last December she tied for 19th place in the third and final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament last December to earn full status on tour for 2017.
While she says she hasn’t played up to her own expectations, Chung says she’s enjoying her rookie season. “I know it was going to be tough coming out here,” she says, “because all the girls are so good. But it’s been actually a lot of fun. I’ve been learning a lot every week. I haven’t really been playing up to what I can be, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s awesome meeting all these girls out here.”
Much of the learning process takes place outside the ropes. The LPGA holds a mandatory orientation session for rookies immediately after Q-School has concluded but newcomers must learn some things on their own. Among them, how to travel from one tour stop to another, how to budget their time over the course of the week, including making time to eat properly and do laundry while still meeting pro-am and sponsor obligations.
Chung, who came directly to the LPGA Tour from college golf, is now responsible for all her own decisions as opposed to having a coach make them for her. What she has learned at the midway point of her rookie season is the importance of making her dollars stretch as far as possible.
“Everything is money, obviously,” she said with a chuckle, “So I’ve just been trying to figure out what’s the easiest way to travel around and who I should travel with.”
Chung has competed in 13 events in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour and cashed six checks for a total of $31,912 dollars. She collected $10,592 of that at the Women’s PGA Championship, her biggest check of the year to date. As of July 4, she stood 123rd on the LPGA’s Official Money List.
For most newcomers, part of adjusting to life as a professional involves maintaining confidence in their own abilities, after finding themselves surrounded by players whose talents equal or exceed their own. “I mean, there’s obviously that little pull in your head where your kind of like “Am I really good enough?’” Chung says. “You’re getting beaten out here but these girls are so good and every week is just a learning experience.”
There are sure to be growing pains ahead, but Chung feels things are moving in the right direction. “I definitely feel a lot more consistent,” she says. “Probably my scores aren’t showing it, but I feel a lot better on the course, I feel more comfortable and I’ve just got to get more into it on the course, just get settled in.”