20-year-old rookie enjoys strong start on LPGA tourAhn Shi-hyun, 20,made a name for herself after winning the LPGA Nine Bridges Classic on Jeju island last November, and is now the strongest contender for the LPGA’s rookie of the year.
Ahn dominated the Nine Bridges Classic. She roared out of the gate in the first round, leaving contenders such as Annika Sorenstam and Pak Se-ri in her dust.
“I never dreamed of winning that tournament. I don’t even remember how I played,” Ahn said.
In her first six months on the LPGA tour, she’s made a strong showing. She has racked up four top-10 finishes in 13 tournament appearances thus far, including second place at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in June.
“I learned a lot after I came to the United States,” said Ahn. “But there is so much more to learn, sometimes I feel I am dying to go back home. Speaking English has also been hard.”
“I always wanted to participate in the LPGA, but moving around from one hotel to another was not easy.”
Her cheery smile and pink clothes have had her American fans calling her “Pink Lady.”
Ahn first put her hands on a golf club when she was in the fourth year of primary school. In 1999, her father’s factory burned to the ground, a traumatic experience that nearly caused Ahn to give up playing golf, but her coach, Jeong Hae-sim, realized her special talent and encouraged her to continue.
A recent poor performance at the Evian Masters tournament disappointed Ahn. She admitted to not having picked up English fast enough, although she denied she was having problems communicating with her caddie, Brian Dilley.
Ahn has yet to do an interview in English, but is thinking about taking the leap to build up her confidence.
“Grace Park told me once that no matter what they ask me, I should explain my ideas word by word,” Ahn said.
She says she’s sought out Park for advice. “We have very good chemistry. Grace helped me throughout difficult times.”
Among foreign players, Ahn is close to Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel and Sorenstam. Mallon and Daniel even gave her the nickname “Annie.”
Ahn said she especially respects Inkster because she is able to balance her responsibilities to her family with her professional life.
by Chung Jeh-won
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