May 23, 2017 / 7:11 AM / 6 months ago

Golf-Homesick Jang puts family first on leaving LPGA

SEOUL, May 23 (Reuters) - Jang Ha-na knows her decision to quit the elite U.S. women’s golf tour at the peak of her career has left people scratching their heads but the world number 10 said on Tuesday she had no regrets about putting family ahead of fame and fortune.

Jang confirmed at a news conference in Seoul that she was rescinding her membership of the U.S. LPGA Tour and would return to play on the domestic Korean women’s circuit this season.

The 25-year-old, who has had four wins on the U.S.-based circuit since her 2015 rookie season and earned more than $2.6 million in prize money, said being closer to her mother was the prime reason for her decision.

”I thought being world number one was the only goal in my life and that was where my happiness comes from,“ she said. ”But I realised there are many more important things than that.

“Even though I won four times (on the LPGA Tour) I still felt empty inside. I made this decision because being with my family is more important to me than being the world’s top golfer.”

Jang, who registered eight wins on the Korean Tour (KLPGA) and was the leading money winner in 2013, has had a tough year off the course.

She hit the headlines in March last year when a bag being carried by her father came crashing down an escalator at Singapore’s Changi Airport and slammed into South Korean rival Chun In-gee, forcing her to miss the LPGA’s HSBC Women’s Champions tournament.

Adding insult to injury for Chun and her fans, Jang won the tournament in Singapore and celebrated with a memorable ‘Beyonce-style’ dance, prompting a firestorm of criticism from Korean media.

The controversy lingered from weeks, with Jang reduced to tears at subsequent media conferences, and it took the South Korean another four months before she recorded a top-10 finish.

Jang said the incident and its aftermath played no part in her decision to cut short her career in the United States.

“That’s not why I decided to come back,” she said. “I’ve already spoken to Chun In-gee a lot about that incident. The reason I’ve decided to come back is that I’ve found something more precious than golf.”

While the U.S Tour offers the biggest prize funds in women’s golf, Jang will have plenty of opportunities to earn good money in South Korea’s domestic tour.

The Korean Tour, which has been making efforts to stem the annual exodus of top players to the LPGA, features more than 30 events and offers more than $20 million in total prize money this year. (Reporting by Yuna Park; Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O‘Brien)

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