Ai Miyazato, Japanese Legend, Retires from LPGA at Young Age
Ai Miyazato, an enormous name in Japanese golf, not to mention a hefty presence in the worldwide game, is retiring from competitive golf to seek what she terms “a normal life.” She makes a good point. One who wants a ‘normal’ life won’t do well by searching the world of competitive golf, on any tour. Miyazato is not flaming out for lack of success – quite the contrary. She has won everything there is to win in her home country, and has succeeded in the LPGA, including majors such as the Evian Masters of 2009. She has attained the top ranking in the world three times, the first in 2010. This was a breakthrough moment for Japanese golfers. Miyazato announced her retirement at the Evian this year, a most appropriate way to exit the scene. For the first two rounds, she was allowed to choose her playing partners. She chose Paula Creamer and Yani Tseng, also appropriate. She played as a gracious and good-hearted competitor, so there’s no reason she shouldn’t hang out with the same. On the 18th of the final round, Miyazato saw her friends gathered around to greet her. She sank a six-footer for par, and got a bonus when she also met Gary Player off the fringe.
Some things are different than they were in the old, old days, and some things are not. We have no idea what family plans might be in the plan for Miyazato, but historically, many women have dropped out of what interested them to start families, or at least to seek a ‘normal’ life. To create a family-friendly environment and be on tour at the same time sounds difficult to me, but women have manage it for centuries, in numerous professions that require travel and preparation. One dynamic appears to have changed for men and women alike. Throughout much of the last century, people usually chose a profession and stayed in it to retirement, the same way they bought a house and stayed in it. Today, I hear an inordinate number of young people compartmentalize their lives by decades, and set a different agenda for each, or at least plan a major change somewhere in the middle. Lydia Ko once suggested that she wanted to play to a certain age before entering a medical profession – psychology or psychiatry, was it?
Men make outright career changes as well, and often initiate that change after suffering professional burnout. However, these career changes don’t always go through as the grip of competition calls them back. What was intended as a career change turns into time off to regain the competitive edge. I have tried that on four occasions in my life, and ended up right back where I started after about a week each time. Competitors often find their game of choice early in life, and devote tremendous energy to it, placing it first on the priority list, no matter what. I notice that Miyazato played between twenty to thirty events in many years. That’s a corresponding number of flights, periods of jet lag, changes of climate, culture, food, air, elevation, and that much time away from home. Time with family in the middle of the season must be at times high intensity as one runs to and from the coach and practices through holidays.
Ai Miyazato has won enough to feel secure as she searches for the next important priority in life. She is beloved by her country, and respected by her industry. None of that time spent practicing bunker shots has been wasted. As for professional golf, she did her part to honor the standards of the LPGA on and off the tour. The whole thing looks like a deal well done, and she deserves our best wishes for the next adventure.
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