The best female golfer in Japan is Korean. Ahn Sun-ju, 26, has won 16 tournaments, including three this year, and banked 500 million yen (about $5 million) prize money since joining the JLPGA in 2010.
While Ahn definitely has the talent to extend her dominance to her home country, do not expect her to return anytime soon.
In an interview with Naver sports columnist Lee Young-mi, Ahn described playing in Japan as a liberating experience. She said that when she competed in Korea, her ability as a golfer was never enough.
“Some (potential Korean) sponsors even demanded I get a plastic surgery,” she said. “Companies did not consider me as a golf athlete, only that I was a woman. It mattered most to them was whether my appearance was marketable. I was deeply hurt by that.”
Ahn her made pro debut with the KLPGA in 2006 and won six tournaments before jumping to the JPLGA. But despite her stellar play, she struggled to find a corporate sponsor in Korea.
“As you can see, I do not have a pretty face, I am not thin, I am not what you would call sexy,” Ahn said. “But does that mean I shouldn’t be playing golf?
“Japanese companies, on the other hand, focused on my ability as a golfer. They are more concerned about my performance and how I treat my fans. I am being sponsored by six Japanese companies, including a clothing brand.”