INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA | You knew they were coming long before you saw them. When the four players representing South Korea walked out of the clubhouse at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea at 7:25 on Tuesday morning for team photos, fans swarmed like bees, obscuring So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park, I.K. Kim and In Gee Chun from sight. People cheered, snapped photos and rushed forward with Sharpies and caps in hand in the hopes of getting one selfie or a quick scribble.
By the time the sun tiptoed above the buildings in the background, hundreds of fans were either behind the range or lining the first tee to see Team South Korea. On a Tuesday. Fully 48 hours before the first competitive shot would be struck.
Chun and Ryu played the first four holes of their practice round as a twosome. Every shot elicited shouts or groans, even when players were intentionally playing away from flags. Park and Kim joined them on the par-3 fifth along with a doubling of the already large gallery. Park’s fans are hard to miss. They wear black and bling and have a series of chants and songs that would make clownishly-clad Europeans at the Ryder Cup bow their heads in respect.
By the time they got to the eighth green there were between 500 and 600 people pressing against the ropes. One woman cried when Ryu and Park grabbed her hand in passing. Between the eighth green and ninth tee, Park was mobbed, signing hats, books and pictures until her caddie and a reporter following the group became pulling guards and blocked for her.
It will only get bigger. While getting the exact ticket-sales numbers is akin to finding the key to cold fusion, sources have told The Post that this event has outsold every South Korean golf event in history already, including the 2015 Presidents Cup. The corporate hospitality suites and tented village look like some of the bigger PGA Tour events. They exceed anything in the history of the women’s game by a wide margin.
There were 3,000 daily tickets (which are going for $120 a pop) sold on Tuesday. If the history of South Korean golf events is a guide, that number will grow every day.
“We know it’s going to be big,” Ryu said. “How big … we’ll just have to wait and see.”