Please! No clicks: Digital noises vex players at LPGA event

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Please! No clicks: Digital noises vex players at LPGA event

Korean golfer Kim Song-hee stood on the fairway at the 10th hole during Sunday’s final round of the LPGA Hana Bank Championship in Incheon, west of Seoul, clinging to a one-stroke lead over her compatriot Choi Na-yeon. The two close friends were paired in the final group of the tournament.

Kim scored three early birdies to take a three-shot lead at the only LPGA event in Korea. But she had just bogeyed the ninth hole and was looking to regroup herself.

Then it came, the sound that golfers dread the most - the click of a camera shutter.

Kim flinched, and pulled her second shot to left rough. After a mediocre chip, Kim had another bogey.

Choi had a birdie on the same hole to take the lead for the first time and went on to defend her crown from a year ago.

The bogey was Kim’s first of four on the back nine. After she finished third, three shots behind Choi, Kim called the bogey on the 10th her “biggest regret.”

“On the ninth hole, I also heard a click on my back swing and missed my second shot,” Kim said of the approach that landed in a greenside bunker. “I wanted to play a draw [to the left] but I pushed the ball to the right. I hadn’t played much in front of this many fans and after that, I kept thinking about [the crowd noise].”

Golf is played in virtually complete silence and you can almost literally hear a pin drop. Unlike in other major sports, where fans’ silence is equated with lack of enthusiasm, fans attending golf tournaments are asked to stand still when players are about to hit their shots or putts. In such an environment, golfers often flinch at the seemingly innocuous sound of a camera shutter.

“Some fans took pictures at key moments,” Kim said. “I shouldn’t have let that distract me, but I lost my timing.”

Steve Williams, the oft-volatile caddie for Tiger Woods, kicked a news photographer’s lens and took away a fan’s camera at this year’s U.S. Open, prompting his famous boss to say the caddie had gone too far.

Fortunately, no incident of such nature happened in Korea last weekend. But that doesn’t mean golfers or caddies were any less frustrated.

The momentary lapse of concentration caused by cell phones or digital cameras can be costly. Choi took the first-place purse of 301 million won ($270,000). By dropping to third, Kim took home 135 million won.

Choi sided with her friend that camera noise got out of hand Sunday.

“[The sound of people taking photos] can be really disruptive,” Choi said. “I can understand some noise, but today, it was really out of control.”

Korea is a golf power, especially in the female division. Koreans have won seven times on the LPGA Tour this year. Five of the top-10 money winners and four of the world’s top-10 ranked golfers are from the country. Korea produced LPGA Rookie of the Year honorees in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

But its fans still need some lessons on basic etiquette.

“I kind of expect that every time I come over here,” said Michelle Wie about the circus-like atmosphere along the ropes.

A rising American star born in Hawaii to Korean parents, Wie draws a huge following in tournaments in Korea.

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