Teen phenom finding life after burnout


HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. – Golf doesn't seem so all consuming anymore.
Maybe that's why Aree Song enjoyed her 4-under-par 68 so much in Thursday's start of the McDonald's LPGA Championship. It's the best round of golf this former junior prodigy has posted in three years. It's the best sign yet that maybe there's life after teen phenom fatigue.
Song, 23, is playing on a medical exemption this year after missing all but two events last year. She's had serious digestive tract issues and was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that may be related to all the stress that came with the pressures on her as a junior phenom. She says experimentation with medications is working and so is a careful diet. She feels well again, and that feeling goes beyond her body. It goes to her head and spirit.
Song opened her comeback this season making the cut at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, but she has failed to make a cut over seven consecutive starts since then. But something familiar and good came flooding back to her game on Thursday.
'I had fun,' Song said. 'That was the key. I told myself I was going to have fun here.'
Golf wasn't always fun with Song and her twin sister, Naree, making their meteoric rise through the junior ranks. Aree, at 13, tied for 10th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Naree has her own health issues, bouts with chronic fatigue syndrome. They may have excelled under their father's heavy-handed influence, but there were sacrifices of a normal life that took a toll.
'Being away last year taught me a lot about life and what's important,' Song said. 'I discovered other interests.'
Song went to work last year as a volunteer for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Central Florida near her home in Orlando and loved the interaction with children. She said she also found a passion for reading and learning and an interest in biology. She and her sister stay in contact with their father in New Jersey, but they are on their own now and building lives outside golf.
'My life used to be just golf, hitting balls out here from sun up to sun down, but I'm finding there's more to life,' she said.