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Former golf pro hopes she’s a better teacher

After a rocky career, Min Na-on now aims to help others succeed

May 04,2019
After retiring from the LPGA Tour, Min Na-on now hopes to start a new career as a teaching pro. [KIM SANG-SEON]
Min Na-on wasn’t the best during her career as a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, but she’s aiming to have more success as a golf instructor.

Min started golf in sixth grade, later than many other players. At the time in Korea, many golfers didn’t go to school when they played sports. So in seventh grade, Min’s father suggested that she go to South Africa to study abroad so she could study and play golf.

Min spent two years in South Africa, and once she came back to Korea, she fell behind golfers who played full-time. During her rookie year, she competed against top golfers like Park In-bee, Shin Ji-yai and Choi Na-yeon.

Despite a later start than others, Min still continued the sport and finally turned pro after earning non-exempt status on the LPGA Tour through the 2006 qualifying tournament. When Min turned pro, she received very little attention.

As she had non-exempt status on the Tour, it wasn’t until April 2007 that she got to finally compete in her first LPGA Tour event. At the Corona Championship, she finished fifth. Continuing the momentum, she competed at the Tour’s major tournament, the LPGA Championship.

Since she was an unknown rookie, Min made headlines after the third round of the tournament by becoming the sole leader. However, she wasn’t able to win the tournament; instead, she finished third, two shots behind the champion, Suzann Pettersen of Norway.

After her impressive tournament, Min started to receive attention from the fans and the media, but things started to go wrong when she parted with her caddie. Min’s caddie started carrying her bag at the LPGA Tour’s qualifying tournament, but right after the LPGA Championship, she fired him.

“My caddie really liked to drink so in the morning, I could smell alcohol,” Min said. “Now that I think about it, that’s not that big of a problem. But at that time, I just hated it. Once, we had a misunderstanding and I just fired him right away, but I couldn’t find a good caddie after.”

Looking at her record in tournaments, her first caddie proved to be the best one as the two managed to get that third-place finish at the LPGA Championship. Following her best finish at the major tournament, she started struggling with her swing. To fix the problem, she went to different swing coaches, but that only made her problem get worse.

“Now I can laugh about it. But at that time, I was about to get depressed,” Min said. “I worked really hard to find something, but every time I did, it felt like it was garbage. After I retired and finally got out of the tournament, I got to solve all those problems.”

As she struggled to continue her career as a professional golfer, Min returned to Korea in 2013 and completed her education, and graduated from Dongguk University with a degree in physical education. Now she works at Pastel Golf Club in Seoul. Although she is not a notable teaching pro yet, she is hoping to become one. Min has been reading a lot more and attends seminars as she believes communication with her students is just as important as teaching swing mechanics.

“I want to be a top teaching pro,” Min said. “I don’t think there are people that struggled as much as I did due to a golf swing. I am well aware of the difficulties that amateur golfers go through. The top teaching pros are men, but that doesn’t mean that a woman can’t be one.”

BY SUNG HO-JUN, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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