Family Ties

By Randall MellJuly 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
2099 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' Jiyai Shins week is a miracle in the making.
No matter how the U.S. Womens Open ends, the South Korean rookie is preparing to wrap her arms around a trophy as big as a dream.
Shin is scheduled to close on the purchase of her first home in Duluth, Ga., upon her return there after the championship.
The five-bedroom house is going to be more than her home alone. Its going to allow her to bring her family together in the United States , a dream shes had since she won her LPGA playing privileges late last year.
Its a desire Shin believes is heavenly inspired.
Almost seven years ago, Shins mother, Song Suk Na, was killed when a garbage truck broadsided the car she was driving as she headed to a birthday party. Shins brother, Ji Hoon, 7 at the time, fractured his neck in the crash. Shins sister, Ji Won, 13 then, suffered fractures of her left shoulder and right leg.
Jiyai wasnt in the car. She got the bad news while working on her game on a driving range with her father, Jae Suhp.
Shins brother and sister were so seriously injured, they spent nearly a year in a hospital recuperating. Shin spent the year with them, sleeping in the hospital on a cot, leaving for school and to practice her golf but always returning.
My brother and sister were hurt badly, but losing our mother hurt even more, Shin said.
Shin believes the way her career has flourished and allowed her to buy her American home is orchestrated by her mother.
I think all the time she care for me upstairs, from upstairs all the time, Shin said. I fight for my mom, too.
The competitive fight is impressive with Shin, at 21, already having claimed 28 victories around the world, five of them LPGA events, including last years Ricoh Womens British Open. With her second LPGA title this season, the Wegmans LPGA two weeks ago, Shin overtook Lorena Ochoa in first place in the Rolex Player of the Year standings. She has a chance to join Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only players to be Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in the same season.
Shins last title also moved her to No. 1 on the money list and No. 3 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings. Shes considered a rookie with her three LPGA titles last year coming as a non-member.
At 5-feet-1, with a compact build and swing, Shin has medium-range power but is noted for her remarkable accuracy.
Shins fairways-and-greens game suits a U.S. Womens Open test, even though Saucon Valley Country Club is playing long at 6,740 yards. She and Ochoa are among the favorites this week.
Jiyais always on the short grass, said Dean Herden, Shins caddie.
Shin keeps a photo of her mother in her yardage book. Her brother and sister recovered from their injuries and are thriving in school in South Korea , where her father and his new wife take care of them. Her brother and sister flew to the SBS Open at Turtle Bay to watch Shin make her debut as an LPGA rookie.
Jiyai speaks to them both almost every day, Herden said. They are very close.
In Hawaii , Shin shared her dream of buying an American home, a place they could all be together when shes playing in the United States .
My brother was very excited, Shin said. He said he was going to learn English to be ready.
Shin hopes to bring her brother over in November. Her sister may stay in South Korea to attend college.
Herden sees how the death of Shins mother affects the way Shin lives her life.
Im sure she hit rock bottom when all that happened, Herden said. Today, shes so grateful for everything life brings her. I think its because of that experience. Even on the golf course, she never gets flustered.
The U.S. Womens Open promises to test that, but the outcome wont affect the trophy shes poised to claim, the home that will bring her family together.
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