Latest LPGA star looks ahead following Safeway Classic winIt was not easy to meet Kang Soo-yun, 29, the winner of the LPGA Safeway Classic on Aug. 22. Since returning to Korea on Aug. 31, she has had a hectic time doing endless interviews. After numerous phone calls, she finally agreed to be interviewed at the Roadland golf course in Jeju island.
“This is how my life has changed since I won,” Kang said. “If I hadn't won, people and journalists would have been indifferent to me ― nobody would be looking to interview me.”
“Before the Safeway Classic victory, I had muscle pains in the back of my neck and could not get my back swing right. I went to hospitals, but the doctors said there was no understandable physical reason. But after the victory, the pain has gone. It was bizarre," she said.
Kang entered the world of golf when she was in her fourth year in primary school in 1986. Before that, she was a speed skater. Kang started losing interest in skating and became interested in golf after she followed her father to a golf range and watched him practice. She is not alone as it seems that all the current Korean female golfing stars such as Pak Se-ri, Kim Mi-hyun, Jang Jeong and Kang began golf in similar circumstances.
“We lived close to a golf course," Kang said, “and I went to practice there 300 days out of the year. There were so many times I played 36 holes a day. I was told I have a good ball-sense when striking them ― that's because I practiced so much when I was young.”
Kang turned professional in 1997 and won the Rookie of the Year award. She had two victories in the KLPGA tour in Korea in 2000 and three the following year, becoming the biggest prize money earner that year. When she toured in the United States, she often felt playing golf was difficult, but she never thought about quitting.
“To be honest, I didn’t practice that much. I believe that one-hour practice with full concentration is better than 10-hours of erratic practice. Then I had poor performances on the tour and someone asked me, ‘who is going to look up to you?’ I was angry, and so practiced really hard last year,” Kang said.
Kang is very open and straightforward. When asked sensitive questions, she never hesitates or changes the subject. The place where she was interviewed happened to be near a green where other players were practicing putting, but she did not mind. It sounded like she wanted younger players to learn something from her experience.
The Korean press, as they often do to sports stars, have given her a nickname, calling Kang “the fashion model in the field.” That day, she was wearing light yellow pants and yellow nail polish.
“I don’t necessarily spend more time than others in picking clothes. I just casually select ones offered by the sponsor, but others say I have a good fashion sense,” Kang said.
Speaking of her drinking habits and talents, Kang said, “A bottle of soju is my limit. I can’t drink more than that despite enjoying the drinking atmosphere. I like singing and dancing.”
These days, she listens to SG Wanna Be and Kim Jong-kook, she said.
“I would like to win one more time this year. Hopefully it will be the CJ Nine Bridge Classic on Jeju island. Pak Se-ri and Grace Park have both won it and I would love to win. I’ll promise I will be wearing a Korean traditional dress when I hold up the trophy."
by Chung Jeh-won