Yealimi Noh misses chance at first LPGA major title by one stroke
CONCORD, CA (July 25, 2021) — Yealimi Noh spent her last day as a teenager in France with the world looking in while she led the Amundi Evian Championship on the back nine of the year’s fourth major before missing makeable birdie putts on three of the last four holes to fall one stroke short of getting in a playoff.
Minjee Lee of Australia started the final round tied for fourth, seven shots off the pace set by Jeongeun Lee6 and two behind Noh, who was second heading to Sunday. Lee shot a bogey-free seven under par 64 and beat Lee6 on the first sudden death playoff hole.
Lydia Ko, Lee6 and Noh were in the final threesome on the Evian Resort Golf Club course while Lee played in the threesome directly ahead of the leaders.
Noh’s third-place finish at 17 under par is the best of her second season as a LPGA rookie. Because the pandemic shortened last year’s schedule, all 2020 and 2021 rookies are classified as rookies this season.
The first half of 2021 did not go particularly well for Concord’s Noh with her well-publicized $10,000 fine for slow play in March the lowlight. She also missed the cut twice, one more than all of 2020.
However, there’s plenty of good that Noh can take from the Amundi Evian Championship.
Solo third is her career-best and first top-10 finish in a major championship. She cashed a healthy $300,743 check, more than she earned on tour in all of 2020. But it is a result that leaves her wanting more.
Noh carded five birdies in the final round for a 4-under 67.
“Definitely disappointed. I missed a lot of short putts. This feels like [the Cambia] Portland [Classic] all over again,” said Noh, referencing her runner-up finish at the event in 2019, also by one. “I’m going to be fine, but I should be happy with this result and a lot of positives to take away from it.”
Tomorrow, the sting will wear off as Noh celebrates her 20th birthday traveling to Northern Ireland for the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management. The hunger to win will remain, however, as she enters her ninth straight week of competition.
“I was just so close,” Noh said. “I didn’t really know what to think in the beginning of the day, whether I could pull it off. But getting there and actually being really close was good. Just sucks because I didn’t birdie a single par-5 and I had a lot of 6-foot putts coming down [the stretch].
“After starting the year so bad, I just want to do better. When it doesn’t go your way, when you know you can be there, it’s hard and I’m working on it. You think you’re calm, but I don’t have a poker face. I will admit. Just a lot of emotions, means I care. I think it was important to stay calm.”
The former Carondelet High School student now has five top-three finishes and seven top-15s in 38 career starts since joining the tour in 2020, including a tie for third at last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational while teamed with South Korean major winner A Lim Kim (Team Giant Lims).
It should be no surprise that Noh has picked up her game this summer as she has played eight consecutive weeks. She burst onto the national scene in the summer of 2018 when she won the Junior PGA, U.S. Girls’ Junior and the Canadian Women’s Amateur in consecutive weeks. That prompted her to forego a UCLA golf scholarship and set out to earn her tour card instead.
After easily qualifying at the 2019 Q-Series and having a promising 2020 rookie season the slow play fine and less than stellar finishes began to weigh on the teen golfer competing at the highest level while traveling the world week to week. She reconnected with her old sports psychologist, Dr. Mat Park, shortly after the Kia Classic where her play led to the fine. They first met in 2012, as Park and Noh played golf at Oakhurst Country Club, where Noh still practices while in her home area.
When Noh was in the Bay Area during May playing the U.S. Women’s Open and the LPGA Mediheal Championship she spent that time with her swing coach of 10 years, Erik Stone. Stone followed how Noh structured her practice rounds to managing herself in tournament play.
An immediate learning opportunity presented itself at the beginning of the week at The Olympic Club when 2019 Women’s Open champion Lee6 played a practice round with Noh.
“She [Lee6] shows up on the ninth tee box, and on the 10th tee box she owned the practice round,” Stone explained. “She just took the tee. That is more of what she [Noh] needs to be like, and that will come with time.” Noh applied her work with Stone and finished tied for 13th at Lake Merced, her best finish of the season to that point.
And her results have improved markedly during the past two weeks. Now that she’s no longer a teenager, Noh has another goal for 2021—getting her driver’s license.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.