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Korean March Continues

RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- At precisely 1:47 p.m. Thursday the first round leaderboard at the Kraft Nabisco Championship listed 15 players with a Korean connection among the top 32.
As trends go this was nothing particularly new on the LPGA. Se Ri Pak has won five major championships and will fulfill her requirements for the World Golf Hall of Fame this year. Grace Park is among the most branded female golfers in the world.
But as waves go, the Korean talent pool is absolutely tidal. And it is increasing in size.
The latest to surface at the top, at least for now, in a major championship is Shi Hyun Ahn. The former LPGA rookie of the year, who resides in Californias golf-rich Orange County because it is safer than Los Angeles, birdied eight, nine and 10 Thursday en route to a four-under 68 that would have been even better if she hadnt bogeyed the 15th and 17th holes.
To be sure, Ahn is no stranger to major championships. Last year she posted three top 10s in them including a tie for fifth at the McDonalds LPGA.
My goal was to come through all the way, Ahn said through a translator after the first round. I didnt. I dont want that to happen again.
Her translator on this day just so happened to be her agent, Vicki Lee. Lee was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her English is perfect. And, she said, she wasnt insulted in the least at Ahns characterization of her home town as unsafe.
Meanwhile Lee defended the Korean women on the LPGA against the stereotype that they dont speak English well and they dont care to learn.
These women live, eat and sleep golf, Lee said. Learning a second language is hard for some of them to learn.
Especially when that second language is so idiosyncratic. And even more especially when your primary language is Korean, a native tongue that sounds about as much like English as a camel looks like a monkey.
Ahn said she learned that there is a price to play for golf 24/7 after failing to win at McDonalds last year. I had to change my mental game, she said. The biggest mental part of it for me thats different from last year is that I have fun. I do put pressure on myself but its not to the point where Im coming down hard on myself for not making a fairway or a part. Now Im thankful for each time I hit a fairway or get on the green. And Im taking it light-hearted and having fun with it.
Thursday Ahn hit 12 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens. She navigated the difficult Mission Hills Country Club course with just 27 putts on a day when Annika Sorenstam, the worlds No. 1 ranked player, carded a 75.
Lee was hard-pressed to elaborate on what Ahn does when she isnt living, eating and sleeping golf. The LPGA media guide says Ahn enjoys quilting. There was nothing patchwork about her game in 2003 when she burst on the scene with a victory at the LPGAs CJ Nine Bridges Classic.
Fact is, one of the hardest working media outlets at the Kraft Nabisco this week is tvK, which serves Korean-American communities across the U.S. The viewing preferences of every family member in a Korean-American household is fulfilled within the scope of tvKs television offering, boasts tvKs website. tvKs equipment truck is prominent in its presence in the media lot here.
When a newspaper, say the Washington Post, sends a reporter to cover a major championship, one of that reporters responsibilities is to cover the locals, those players with ties to the Posts circulation area.
tvKs locals this week include Aree Song, Sarah Lee, Seon-Hwa Lee, Birdie Kim, Jee Young Lee, Jin Joo Hong, Jimin Kang, Mi Hyun Kim, Il Mi Chung, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Gloria Park, Young-A Yang, Hee-Young Park, Young Kim, Young Jo, Hee-Won Han, Sung Ah Yim, Jeong Jang, Joo Mi Kim, Soo-Yun Kang, Meena Lee, Kyeong Bae, Sun Young Yoo and Ji-Yai Shin.
By the way, at precisely 2:49 p.m. Thursday there were seven American women in the top 29 on the leaderboard. The American women are tired of having this pointed out to them. The LPGA spins the success of the Korean women as part of a healthy global reach of their game. And in fairness, most Korean women look at America as the place they must come to ultimately prove their talent.
I have been practicing and practicing, Ahn said Thursday.
Dont expect that, or for that matter, the inexorable forward march of Korean women on the LPGA to stop anytime soon.
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