Women’s Golf US Open runner-up enjoys second peak… will return to Japan Tour next week안전놀이터
Shin Ji-ae (35) represents the “Seri Kids” of women’s golf. One by one, the “Seri Kids” who dominated women’s golf in the world are stepping down from the stage, but Shin is still going strong. Last month, she finished runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open, a major tournament on the LPGA (U.S. Women’s Professional Golf) Tour, and on April 14, she finished third at the AIG Women’s Open. The highest finish among Korean players. Lee, who returned to the LPGA Tour after four years on Japan’s JLPGA Tour, showed that his golf career is still in progress.
I caught up with Shin over the phone as he returned to Korea to take a break from his overseas expedition. She will be back on the Japan Tour next week. “After doing my best on the Japan Tour, I was surprised how many people welcomed me back to the U.S. Tour after a long time,” he said, “I was told on almost every hole that I’ve been waiting for you, welcome back, I’m glad you’re back.” Most of them were foreigners.
She made her way to the LPGA Tour, reaching world No. 1 in 2010, and has been playing on the Japan Tour since 2014. It was her grandmother who inspired her to play in an LPGA Tour major after so many years. “I wanted to win a big tournament and be in the mainstream news, but she passed away about a month before the U.S. Women’s Open, so I worked hard because I knew she would be proud of me in heaven.” The courses at majors are tricky and windy, but “ball control is my strength,” she said, “and I think the worse the weather, the better.”
Shin has two wins on the Japan Tour this season. She is second on the money list (¥119.04 million). 1-3-4 are Japanese players born in the 2000s. If she surpasses them, she will become the first player to win the Korea, US, and Japan money list. Two more wins and he’ll be a permanent seed on the Japan Tour.
“There’s too much talk about results,” Shin said, “and I want to focus on the process.” So far this season, she has played in only 12 of the 24 events on the Japan Tour. She has two wins, three runner-up finishes, and one each of third and fifth place. “By playing fewer tournaments, I’m able to focus more,” he said. “It’s important to use my strength when I want to use it, so I pay more attention to my physical training, schedule, and routine.” “I never took time off before because I was tired, I didn’t stop if it didn’t hurt, and I’ve been through a lot of injuries, so now I’m quicker to recognize the signals my body is giving me and respond to them. You have to recognize, adjust and take care of your body to be able to play as long as you can.”
Last year, he made the decision to have in-season elbow surgery. “I didn’t want to compete with everyone else gritting their teeth,” he says, “and as I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve gotten less afraid of injuries.” He was back on tour within two months after shaking off years of pain. “Even Tiger Woods has come back from multiple surgeries throughout his career,” he says, adding, “I have the confidence that if I’m sick, I’ll get better, and if I’m in good shape, I’ll play well.”
In an age of data and technology, Shin still relies on feel. By practicing and analyzing herself, she has developed the ability to quickly identify and judge small changes. “If you rely too much on mechanical data, you lose confidence in situations where you can’t see the data,” she says. “I trust my body and my instincts, so I can make changes even during a match.” He’s also very discriminating about what he eats. He’s been tracking his body’s reactions to food since high school. She stops eating flour, eggs, dairy, and raw foods two days before a competition. “I don’t think of it as deprivation,” he says, “it’s just a choice I make because I want to play golf in the condition I want to play in.”
As the ‘Seri Kids’ fade away, the status of women’s golf in South Korea is not the same. Shin’s diagnosis is similar. She believes it’s largely due to the fact that fewer players are daring to take on the overseas tours. “It’s upsetting to see players who overcame tough junior years to become professionals and miss out on further experience and growth opportunities,” she says. “It’s always a competitive profession, so it’s really important to take a break, and my family is always there to support me,” Shin said. Both siblings are majoring in physics. Her sister recently received her PhD from Seoul National University, and her brother is pursuing a PhD program at the same graduate school. “I’m more of a humanities person than a science person, but I do ‘hands-on physics’ with golf, so it’s fun to talk about my golf experiences and they back it up with theory.” As he approaches his 20th year as a professional, he says, “I’m pretty focused on golf these days,” and “I like that I’m focused.”