Na Yeon Choi: Room to Be a Human Being

On Sunday, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato and So Yeon Ryu will be paired together in the final group of the CME Group Titleholders at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, Florida.

They finished the third round in that order, one stroke apart with Na Yeon Choi leading at 12-under par.

The LPGA has become a “family” in the same way that the men’s European Tour had become a family before they expanded their tournaments world wide. They used to travel from tournament to tournament like a bunch of vagabonds, catching the same flights, staying a the same hotels and eating at the same restaurants. 

The LPGA might not be quite that intimate in today’s world of international travel, but what is true is that they all seem to like each other and think of themselves as friends. Having met Na Yeon Choi and Ai Miyazato, it’s very easy to see how that could be true. They are both very gentle people; you could spend hours with either of them.

What came out in the post-round interviews is that all three of them are very much looking forward to playing with each other. And not just playing with each other, being with each other and engaged in conversation. This from Na Yeon:

I think it will be really exciting.  I mean, I played with Ai today and we talked a lot about Korea or Japan, even my dog, everything.  And even if I play with So Yeon tomorrow, it should be more fun.

They apparently see the value in connecting with each other as human beings on the one hand and being able to still be competitors on the other. This from So Yeon:

Well, maybe now Na Yeon Choi leader, Ai is 11‑under, now I’m third.  So maybe tomorrow I will pairing with them.  I always really happy playing with Na Yeon and Ai, you know.  Ai is really friendly people and Na Yeon is Korean people, so maybe tomorrow is really great (indiscernible) for me.  But you know, the final round, final group is always tough, but I have to enjoy that group.

And this from So Yeon on whether there are any country rivalries:

It’s really hard to compare with Korean girl, same country, but, you know, outside of course we are the same country people, we are friends, but in the course absolutely we are friends but also we are competitor like in the final group.  So it’s not really big different as American, Japanese, whatever, just like same Korean player, same player, same competing, yeah.

So how do they manage staying in their games and staying in their relationships at the same time? This from Na Yeon:

I don’t know, maybe.  I mean, even today I talked with Ai until 18th green.  So, I mean, we play serious, but, you know, during just walk, we just more talking.  I think that’s more for everybody, you know.  Sometimes some golfers, too much focusing during five hours, I think we need to just like even 10 or 15 minute focus, that’s it.

So succinctly she points to the pitfalls of trying to stay in the zone for five hours at a time.

When I asked Roger Chapman about this at the Charles Schwab Cup, he spoke about coming in and out of the zone as he played. He said it begins for him when he’s about fifty yards away from his ball as he starts to size up the wind and the lay of the land as he approaches the ball. It becomes deeper as he’s next to the ball determining the club and the shot he wants to hit…deeper still as he gets over the ball focusing on his target…deeper still as his personal inner clock comes down to pulling the trigger.

And then it’s watching the ball in the air, how it falls onto the target…where it stops…and then he’s out of the zone and walking to the green, watching the birds and smelling the flowers.

So in the ladies’ friendships and Roger’s routine, there is room to be a human being amidst all of the rigors of competitive golf. They apparently agree that it’s a more productive way to be when you’re trying to get the best out of yourself.

And having played in a few death march foursomes back in my competitive days, I agree with them.

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