Last July was a magical month for Concord golfer Yealimi Noh when she won championships at major amateur tournaments on three successive weekends that thrust her firmly on to the national stage. July is also her birthday month and two weeks ago she had an early celebration, placing sixth in her first LPGA tournament as a pro.
Noh turned down a full scholarship to UCLA and instead began her pro golf career in January, playing in Cactus and WAPT mini-tours while going to Monday qualifiers trying to get into the field for Symetra Tour and LPGA tournaments.
Early this month she qualified for the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Wisconsin in her fifth Monday qualifier. And, despite jitters in her first event on the premier women’s tour, her July magic touch took over.
“I was actually really nervous on the first hole. I told myself I wasn’t nervous, but it was a little different playing my first LPGA as a pro,” said Noh, who opened with three consecutive birdies. “Throughout the round I got a little more comfortable.”
She had eight birdies, one eagle and a bogey for a first-round 63 that left her one shot off the lead. She followed up with a 65 in the second round and ended up in the final group Saturday playing with Rolex No. 1 ranked Sung Hyun Park. “Just focus on my score and my game. I don’t want to think too much,” Noh said.
She ended up the 72 holes at 24 under par, tied with Park for sixth place. Park said Noh’s maturity at a young age surprised her.
“She spoke very good Korean, so I had time to speak with her some. I asked her how old she was, and she said she was 17,” said Park, who later joked that she was not as good as Noh at age 17. “Even though she’s a young player, her swing is really good, her playing is really good.”
“It was so fun watching her play,” said Noh of the world’s No. 1 ranked golfer. “She’s really friendly and just, man, I was like really impressed with her distance obviously.”
The first thing Noh did when she woke up the day after the tournament was check to see where she stood in the Rolex Rankings and she had moved up 220 spots to No. 338 in the world. Players ranked inside the top 400 can skip the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School, a summer desert experience Noh would love to miss.
Noh was given a sponsor invite to last week’s Marathon Classic. Alas, she missed the cut by two strokes in another lesson for the Concord golfer during her first seven months as a pro. The 2018 Rolex Junior Player of the Year also has a spot in the upcoming Evian Championship.
Noh earned $63,170 in unofficial money at Thornberry, which is a nice birthday present even before she turns 18 on July 26.