Japanese teen must avoid comparisons to reach potential

By Jason SobelNovember 30, 2013, 8:00 pm

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – Yuhka Kajiki is an ultra-talented up-and-coming golfer, the type whose name we should remember so we can someday say we knew about her before she hit the big-time.

Just 17, Kajiki has already won multiple high-level junior tournaments. She’s currently weighing her options to compete at a Division I school next year. And her average driving distance of 240 yards would rank her in the top half of the LPGA.

Impressive stuff for a kid who moved from Japan two years ago with little working knowledge of the English language to train and study at the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy. Her instructor, Scott Shaffer, believes she could become the best player ever from her home country – “better than Ai,” he says, referring to Ai Miyazato, who owns 25 career victories around the world.

None of these sentiments or accolades, though, can diffuse the pressure she feels on a daily basis. From family back home and – mostly – from herself. In fact, they may only magnify it.

That’s because Kajiki is like so many other ultra-talented golfers her age, struggling on a daily basis to avoid playing the comparison game.

After all, she is just a year younger than Lexi Thompson, who already owns three career LPGA victories. And a year older than Lydia Ko, who has won twice.

The result is an intersection where inspiration meets intimidation, a crossroads where those disguised as peers of phenoms based solely on age can either use those tales as motivation or allow the success of others to swallow them whole, ruining their self-image and confidence.

“We always try to teach our students not to compare themselves to somebody else,” explains Gilchrist, owner and founder of the academy and a longtime instructor of various touring pros. “When they did that on the PGA Tour with Tiger Woods, nobody could play golf anymore. Once you compare, you feel inadequate.

“We also try and help the students learn from others instead of comparing. What makes them so good at that age? It’s usually golfing IQ. They’re just a lot more mature as golfers. There are going to be people like that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to that level one day.”

It’s an appropriate message, of course, but easier said than done.

Kajiki maintains that it’s difficult to see girls her age – and younger – successfully competing on TV without feeling pressure to hurry up and join them yesterday.

“Even my parents say, ‘Why don’t you be like them? Why don’t you hurry?’ But myself, I’m just like, ‘That’s OK. I just want to play golf,’” she says. “Sometimes I fight with my mom, because she can’t get what I’m thinking and I can’t get what she’s trying to tell me, so it kind of becomes complicated.

“She compares me to other people. So when she compares me to other people, I get really upset, because I feel like I didn’t do anything. I feel really disappointed in myself.”

Parents wanting a better performance from their teenagers and browbeating them to the point of dissension is hardly a new development. Add in the dynamic of being on opposite sides of the world and the message can become more pressure-laden, the tension more palpable.

For Kajiki, like so many others her age, the journey hasn’t been an easy one.

“I think she’s just getting more comfortable with being here and being able to calm down and not focus so much on what everybody expects of her,” Shaffer says. “She’s dealing with it a lot better. It was almost to the point where if you talked to her about it before, she would have just started crying. She’s very emotional. But she’s starting to have some better outcomes and she’s seeing that only when she’s stressed out does the outcome become harder to reach. The quieter and more calm she can be, the better the outcomes become.”

The theory in itself sounds like a paradox: The more you want to succeed, the calmer you need to be.

If teaching algebra to a student in their second language is difficult, this message can often come across as near-impossible.

“It’s not a race; it’s not a sprint to get there,” promises Gilchrist, who has 70 students from 20 countries currently attending his academy. “I want her to look at those girls and ask, ‘What can I learn from them to help me improve?’ I want her to embrace it.

“Her personality, she wants results tomorrow. If she’s not getting it, she gets impatient and starts getting frustrated and negative. We have to say to her, ‘What’s your plan to get there?’ Then we take one step at a time. … Her responsibility is to build her confidence, build her self-image and trust her talent and ability to get her there. And if she doesn’t see it, then she’s never going to get there.”

Kajiki is finally starting to see it. She’s finally starting to understand that not every junior golfer can be Lexi Thompson or Lydia Ko – or on the boy’s side, Jordan Spieth or Matteo Manassero. That’s an important distinction, one which can ruin a player’s confidence if they’re focused too much on the comparison game.

When asked about other players her age already enjoying success on the professional level, Kajiki pauses for a second, remembers these lessons and offers a response that sounds straight out of the junior golf handbook.

“They’re the same age,” she says, “but they’re different.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm