Shibuno Shy About Starting?

Smiling Cinderella Hinako Shibuno Holding Off on U.S. LPGA

So, here’s how it appears to be going. Hinako Shibuno, the Smiling Cinderella who was taken into the hearts of Britain when she won the nation’s major on the first time out doesn’t want to take the next step – not yet. Apparently, she doesn’t think she’s ready, not skilled enough to weather the storm of the touring life.  Make no mistake, she wants to do it, and intends to do it, when she’s better at the game. That Women’s British Open she led wire to wire  was played against the world’s best, in the spirit of a major. We all saw her carve up the course. Does a four-day fluke exist in winning golf? After all, she beat the likes of Lizette Salas and Ko Jin-Young, with a few big names not far down the list. How ready does she want to be?

Shibuno could be going in a lot of different directions with such a strategy. No, she wouldn’t win every week in the U.S. She might not win for years, but everyone on tour has to jump in and swim for a while before they start winning. Is she shy based on a fear of financial peril? Does she feel an impending separation anxiety from her home and family? She is a celebrity in Japan, and to spend time in obscurity thousands of miles away may not be the rewarding life she desires.

Here’s another question. Golfers are all different, and they enter the pro game with different desires. Is Shibuno one of those who plays the game in order to become a star, or does she intend to make a living, with or without the stardom? Try to picture Tiger Woods saying “Gosh, if I can just make fifteen or twenty top tens this year, I can buy that motorcycle I’ve been dreaming of.” Doesn’t ring very true, does it? It might for some other players, though. Which type is she, or is she either of them?


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Taking the leap, and enduring the obscurity, smaller checks and increase of missed cuts can take a toll on the spirit.  To go home after paying off the caddie, the coach, the airline and everyone else in your entourage, then get kicked out of the last two days without a cent – well, that’s discouraging. Shibuno appeared to be of sterner stuff during the four British rounds, but perhaps at some level, she is more fragile than we know. Many talented people know about fragility. It’s not a character flaw. Maybe she has thought this delay through and come up with a decision outside our powers of observation.

Still, in most professions, when stardom strikes quickly, the response is equally quick. For many of the strong personalities on the LPGA Tour, a perfect response to a major win would be “Of course you’ll see me next year. I just won the British Open, didn’t I? Wouldn’t miss it!” However, to lament not being good enough after you’ve just beaten the world, and needing a year or two extra to get ready for a debut seems out of character for this group. I’m trying to picture Suzann Pettersen saying a thing like that, and I just can’t.

We are all wired so differently. I can’t really judge the merit of Shibuno and her career decisions. I don’t know what advice she’s getting, and from whom. Twenty years of age is so young, and at the same time so adult. In the end, I have no objections – these are all just my musings. When it comes to sports spectators, some of us can be awfully fragile when it comes to instant gratification, and a tendency to think the stars owe us something.

All right then, let’s just leave it at “We’ll see you when we see you.” Go figger.

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