Hyo Joon Jang played on a sponsor exemption at the 2021 Inova Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship. But this year, the 18-year-old returns to Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. as a pro and Epson Tour rookie. She calls the greater Howey-in-the-Hills area home. At the age of 15, she left her family in their native Republic of Korea to pursue an education and higher level of training for golf. That journey landed her at the International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA), the oldest independent junior golf academy in the United States.
“I needed to go to school and play golf at the same time. We looked for the right academy where I could do both, and IJGA was the perfect place,” said Jang. “I’ve been here for three years. It’s like home.”
Coming off a career-best finish of a tie for second at the IOA Golf Classic presented by LPT Realty, Jang is starting to find a rhythm on the course. She ranks first on Tour in putts per green in regulation (1.70), second in putting average (28.60) and 10th in scoring average (70.60). Her preparation through IJGA and rigorously competitive amateur golf schedule—including a few tournaments at Mission Inn—helped the transition to the pro ranks.
“I’m from a small country, compared to the States. It’s a big difference,” said Jang, who won the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour Championship by 11 strokes in 2020. “A lot of different weather patterns and the types of grasses, especially poa annua has challenged me. I’ve been able to experience a lot of different courses and it has helped me become a better golfer.”
Even so, there are still learning curves.
“To be honest, I’m still not fully comfortable on Tour yet because there’s a lot that is hard to do for my age, from a rental car and even hotels,” Jang said. “My mom [Sang Sun Lee] arrived a week ago and she has been such a huge help. I think now I am getting into it.”
As Jang continues to adjust to her surroundings and life on the “Road to the LPGA,” a couple weeks of competition in central Florida has been welcomed.
“It has been so much easier because my home is close and I’m used to the weather,” said Jang. “I know what to expect. This will help me for the rest of the season.”