Bidding Adieu

So Yeon Ryu, whose first LPGA Tour victory came in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor, set to retire at age 33

By Gary Baines – 3/22/2024

So Yeon Ryu had just turned 21 the last time the U.S. Women’s Open was played in Colorado, and she belatedly celebrated her birthday by winning the first of what would become two major championships.

And it did indeed look like a celebration at the time, in early July 2011. When Ryu made a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 — defeating countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo and completing the first three-hole aggregate playoff in U.S. Women’s Open history — fellow South Korean players, including the nation’s golf godmother, Se Ri Pak, squirted Ryu with champagne following a Monday finish on the East Course at The Broadmoor.

“When I started golf, Se Ri won the U.S. Women’s Open, so Se Ri is my hero,” Ryu said at the time. “Now she shows up and congratulates me. It’s unbelievable.”

And now, not quite 13 years later, Ryu is calling it a career at the still-young age of 33. 

Ryu announced on Thursday that she’ll retire from the LPGA Tour after competing in next month’s Chevron Championship, the other major she won, in 2017. The notification came via a handwritten note on Instagram. 

“After deciding to retire, I spent much time looking back on my career,” Ryu wrote. “So many memories came flooding back, and I felt so many emotions. But the more I thought about it, the more I was thankful for so many things. I am so grateful that I could do what I loved to do, day in and day out, and even make a career out of it. I am not going to lie: I had some hard patches, but despite some of the challenges, I truly enjoyed it all. And more than anything, I feel incredibly grateful for the love and support I’ve received from all of you throughout my career.

“People often say, ‘Golf is life,’ and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve learned so much through this game: patience, respect for others, endurance and much more. Golf has taught me so many lessons. Now, I want to do something to make this sport even better. So, I hope you continue supporting me in the next chapter of my life.”

Ryu, who turned pro at 17, claimed six titles on the LPGA Tour and 10 more on the Korean LPGA circuit. For a time in 2017, she was the No. 1-ranked woman in the world. Ryu earned more than $12 million on the LPGA Tour.

The U.S. Women’s Open has been contested three times in Colorado, and the three champions — all foreign-born — each made the event her first LPGA victory. Annika Sorenstam of Sweden (1995 at The Broadmoor) and Birdie Kim of South Korea (2005 at Cherry Hills) were the others. Ryu and Kim earned USWO titles after going through Sectional qualifying.

“I think my dream is the Hall of Fame, but it is just starting,” Ryu said in 2011. “This situation is just unbelievable. A lot of U.S. Open winners are really famous players, and my goal is (to be) a really famous player in America.”

Said Sorenstam on Ryu’s Thursday Instagram post: “You should be very proud. A wonderful career and true ambassador to the game. Good luck in your next chapter!”

The Chevron Championship, the first women’s major of 2024, will be played April 18-21 in The Woodlands, Texas.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates