Golf: Ferry tragedy gives Koreans extra drive for Crown

South Korea's women golfers dedicated their efforts at this week's inaugural LPGA International Crown team matches to lifting their homeland's spirits after April's ferry disaster that killed nearly 300 people.

The Seoul ferry sank on April 16 with 476 people on board, including 325 high school children, and 294 were confirmed dead in a mishap that stunned South Korea after learning incompetence, corruption and greed contributed to the tragedy.

"After that all Koreans were feeling pretty sad. Everybody still thinks about that and all the young kids and feels really sad," ninth-ranked Ryu So-Yeon, the 2011 US Women's Open champion, said Tuesday.

"So we really want to win this tournament and give a really great energy to all the Koreans. That means this tournament feels more bigger than the Olympic Games."

Former world number one Choi Na-Yeon, the 2012 US Women's Open winner, said she had calls of support from friends in her homeland who could use the boost in spirits.

"We want to encourage all the fans in Korea. They had a hard time the last few months. They call me also," Choi said.

"We are like ferry kids so we want to make this happen not for us but for the country, for the people in Korea."

The Koreans are seeded second in the eight-team event, being edged for the top spot by host United States in qualifying that ended in March.

Four-woman teams will play two four-ball matches against group rivals over each of the first three days with the five winningest teams advancing to Sunday's final singles matches that will decide the title in the $1.6 million event.

South Korea will compete in Group B with Japan, Sweden and Australia while the Americans are in Group A along with Thailand, Taiwan and Spain.

"We're really good to help each other and really encouraging," Ryu said. "I really want to see my country's strength on this stage.

"I'm pretty sure we are the strongest team so I just want to care about my teammates."

While the Americans and the European teams have match-play experience from the Solheim Cup, this will be the first match-play experience beyond juniors for most Asian sides, although Ryu has experience with the emotions of playing for her country from the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

"I got a gold medal when I was there and I was almost crying," Ryu said. "When you heard your anthem and you've got a gold medal around your neck, it always feels really emotional, like happy and sad, like proud of myself.

"I really want to get a feeling like that again."