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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Very good but....

I've bemoaned Golf World's coverage of the LPGA and South Korean golfers. Click here and here for examples. The May 5 issue has an article called Land of Opportunities. It's about last week's winner and the success of the Korean players on tour.

There is one problem however. At the bottom of page 30 there is a chart of the winners on LPGA that are Korean. 14 players are listed. Golf World goofed, number nine is Soo Young Moon. Moon has never won on tour. On the other hand Shi Hyun Ahn was omitted from the list. She won the Nine Bridges tour stop in 2003 at age 19 and still only a member of the KLPGA. In 2004 Shi Hyun Ahn was rookie of the year.

Sorry Golf World, you only get a B for this week's issue.

Open Post- Echo9er, Outside the Beltway, Bright & Early,

THE FIRST-TEE ANNOUNCER Saturday at the Ginn Clubs & Resort Open flawlessly delivered the name and hometown of Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, but then displayed that this was, in fact, a first-year event. "Now on the tee, from Chunchon, South Carolina, Young Kim," he boomed, prompting confused murmurs and embarrassed laughter. "Correct that," he recovered, "Chunchon, South Korea."

The mistake wouldn't happen in any city that has held an LPGA event in recent years, and certainly not in the last two. The trickle of Koreans on tour after Se Ri Pak opened the pipeline in 1998 has hit gusher proportions, and now the inevitable is happening. They are winning in large numbers.

The two-stroke victory Sunday by Mi Hyun Kim over Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb at Reunion Resort and Club near Orlando snapped a four-year winless streak for the woman who, along with Grace Park, now has the most LPGA titles (six) by a Korean other than Pak (22). But the win also reflected a new level of play for the sizable Korean contingent. In recent years there were whispers about the "domination" of the LPGA by Koreans, when in fact the only nation with a hammerlock on the competition was the sovereign state of Annika Sorenstam. Yes, there were a lot of Koreans, but they were not winning a lot of tournaments. Now they are.

The triumph by Kim was the fourth by a Korean in eight LPGA tournaments this year and the 11th in the last 29 events (37.9 percent), dating to last year's win by Jimin Kang in the Corning Classic. And consider this: The last 14 LPGA events won by a Korean have been won by 13 different players, and the oldest is 30-year-old Soo-Yun Kang. Many of these women have not yet reached their peak. The win by Kim was the 50th LPGA victory by a Korean, and 2006 could surpass the nine victories they had in 2002, when Pak was still Pak and took home five trophies.

In part it is a numbers game. There are 31 Koreans on tour, including seven rookies. At the Ginn Open, 25 of the 145 starters were Koreans. But it is more than stacking the deck--these players are being dealt solid hands through intense training that begins at home and is nurtured abroad. "I've played over there, and it is just so different," American veteran Juli Inkster said. "When they are 14, 15, 16 they are playing in KLPGA events. They are getting better tournament golf than our juniors, playing longer courses, with more difficult setups against tougher competition."

In fact, Seon Hwa Lee, 20, who leads the points race for LPGA Rookie of the Year, joined the KLPGA when she was 14 and became its youngest winner the next year. It all started after Pak won the 1998 McDonald's LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open. Her success inspired a lot of young girls, not to mention their fathers, to pursue a career in golf.

"Millions of dollars are being spent by parents and corporations for instruction outside the country--in Australia, Thailand, the Philippines and the United States," said Gary Gilchrist, director of instruction for the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., and the teacher of In-Kyung Kim, winner of the 2005 U.S. Girls' Junior. "It is a very competitive culture, and they bring that to the game. They study golf intensely. They read a book and bring the concepts to the golf course."

Henri Reis, Sorenstam's coach for 20 years and recently the instructor for Sarah Lee, a Korean born in London, cites other cultural factors that work for the Koreans. "They are not very strong when they start playing, so they develop good swing tempo and great short games," Reis said. "Then, when they get stronger, they still have that great tempo and touch." Reis says the Korean work ethic is enhanced by the isolation of playing in a foreign country. "Because of the language barrier they spend a lot of time on the practice range," he said. At most LPGA stops Koreans are the last to leave the range.

Mi Hyun Kim, 29, arrived in 1999, winning twice her first year and five times in her first four seasons. She has never been out of the top 25 on the money list despite being winless since 2002. Only 5-feet-1 and desperate to add distance to a tee ball that averaged 237.4 yards last year (129th on tour), Kim tried a 47-inch driver, but one only 14 inches shorter than she is. "I had to stop because the clubhead almost touched the ground on my backswing," she said with a charming laugh. "My backswing is bigger than John Daly's." She now swings a 45-inch driver.

"I was nervous," Kim said about her final round at the Ginn, "because I felt if I lose today I would never win again." Kim, who carries five woods (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) plus a hybrid, made bogeys on three of the first six holes Sunday, falling behind Ochoa, who birdied five of the first eight. But Kim grabbed a lead she never surrendered with birdies onNos. 9 and 10. Ochoa and Webb, who made great rallies with 66 and 67, respectively, had one last chance to pressure Kim, but when they failed to birdie the final hole all Kim needed was a bogey to win, and she parred to finish at 12-under 276.

The combination of wind, crusty greens and an unfamiliar course created near six-hour rounds all week. Thursday, Cristie Kerr had no bogeys on her way to a 65, two strokes better than Ochoa and Laura Diaz. Kim, who has lived 30 minutes from here for eight years and knows the wind, shot a 70, and Sorenstam, fighting a balky putter, opened with a 72 (she eventually closed with a 67 to finish fourth at 283, seven strokes behind the winner). Kim's 66 Friday put her at 136 going into the weekend, one stroke ahead of Ochoa and two better than Ai Miyazato.

The wind blew the hardest Saturday and Kim handled it magnificently, shooting 69 to tie for low round of the day and take a three-stroke advantage over Miyazato into Sunday. The Japanese rookie would have been closer but finished the third round with a four-putt double bogey. Sunday Miyazato, 20, was not up to the task--making a triple bogey on the second hole when she skulled a bunker shot over the green--and Ochoa and Webb just had too much ground to make up. Kim, who hit only one bunker all week, stayed out of trouble and got the job done.

For years, Pak was the only Korean with a major championship, capturing four. But Grace Park won the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and then Birdie Kim captured the 2005 U.S. Women's Open and Jeong Jang the Weetabix Women's British Open a month later. At the 2005 Kraft Nabisco, Mi Hyun Kim said her father had mandated she not marry until she wins a major. Certainly, there are more majors ahead for the Koreans, but Kim's victory at the Ginn felt like one already. "Maybe I'm going to ask [my father] today," she said with a laugh. She certainly has enough countrywomen close by to be maids of honor.

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