Oct 22

Eun-Hee-Ji, Swinging Skirts and Questions

Eun Hee-Ji Wins the Taiwan Swinging Skirts – Related Stories and Questions

As the LPGA continues its ‘swing’ through Asia, I’m wondering where previously unknown greatness comes from, whether there’s more to come in some players, and what happened to yesterday’s stars. Eun-Hee-Ji won the Taiwan version of the LPGA Swinging Skirts Championship this week. I’ve seen her name printed differently, out of order. With some names from that part of the world, I’m not always sure which is the first, and which is the last. My real error, however, was in assuming that here is yet another South Korean star ready to dominate the tour. That’s wrong. Eun-Hee-Ji joined the tour in 2007, and did quite well right off the bat. In 2008, she won the Wegmans over Suzann Petterson, won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2009, and tied for 2nd in the 2012 LPGA Championship. I should have known her. Does an initial splash that goes dormant for a little while have a cycle that brings one back to the winner’s podium later on? For some, it does. Eun-Hee-Ji is apparently one of them. She won $330,000 this week, added to her $5,384, 371 in the last decade. That’s around $538,000 plus per year, right? This is not a winner with a mental approach problem. She’s always ready to compete, and wins once in a while in a tough field.

The second interesting story for me was Lizette Salas, who tied for 3rd. I’ve followed her from the beginning, when she was extremely well-supported by family, but didn’t start with much cash. I double-check her career earnings once in a while just for the pure pleasure of it. Now, she’s running at an average of several hundred thousand per year since becoming a rookie 5 years ago. Often a contender, she’s in the same boat with Eun-Hee-Ji. She can win at any time. You just have to keep checking in. Thee are no problems here, either.
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Then we come to Lydia Ko, who has recently finished between 2nd and 5th a lot more often than she used to. We’ve been through the swing and coach melodrama, and we don’t know whether she’s psyched herself out or not. Another alternative, and a worse one, is that the new wave of greats is catching up with her already by the age of 20. The cycle of greatness is so fragile that one little hitch in the system turns a 70 into a 72, or one so-so round with the other three great ones. Second again at the Swinging Skirts, she won $202,195, but I doubt that she cares very much about that.

Yani Tseng finished tied for 17th, and won $26,052 for her efforts. She may care less about that money than Lydia does. She’s one or two breaths away from the Hall of Fame as a young person, and taking that final step or two is proving insanely difficult. What makes a four-round great score of yesteryear suddenly two strokes higher. Where is her mind at the moment? Is it farther down the road of “Are we being replaced?” than Lydia’s? It sounds crazy. Both of them got here relatively recently. It isn’t just the wear and tear of the tour, and the years of competition with your colleagues. There are brilliant newbies coming in behind you, and they don’t seem afraid anymore.
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So which greatness rebounds, and which doesn’t? When is a golfer really through, and when are they just ‘resting’? I can’t even begin to think of Ko and Tesng as “through,” but a lot of weeks are going by without the luster their game once showed. How many more? Meanwhile, Eun-Hee-Ji is competing very nicely with her top colleagues, many of whom hail from her home country. Ten years in the LPGA has brought up no signs of burn-out or swing, coach, and identity problems. There are no answers, except to move along to next week’s tournament and see if any of the trends change.

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