Jang trying to appeal to Americans and Koreans

By Randall MellMarch 16, 2016, 8:02 pm

PHOENIX – Ha Na Jang’s dynamic emergence as an LPGA winner this year hit the tour like a freshening breeze with her colorful victory celebrations going viral.

That “Samurai Lasso” Jang unveiled winning the Coates Golf Championship sent a jolt of delight through the gallery around the 18th green in Ocala, Fla. Her Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions was just as electric.

With her 10,000-watt smile and playful disposition, Jang is the fun, new headliner in women’s golf this year, and that’s what makes her revelation at the JTBC Founders Cup this week so disconcerting.

“Now every day, crying in my room, last night, last week,” Jang said.

Jang’s spirits ought to be soaring with two victories in her last four starts, but she’s struggling emotionally dealing with a media tempest back in her South Korean homeland. She’s upset about a controversy pitting her against reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun.

If you missed this, when Jang arrived in Singapore before the HSBC Women’s Champions, her father lost control of a 15-pound carry-on bag at the airport. The bag crashed down an escalator and struck Chun in the lower back, which led Chun to withdraw from that event and also from this week’s Founders Cup.

The drama intensified when Jang won and jumped into the South Korean Olympic golf team’s four-player mix, bumping Chun out, at least for the time being.

Chun issued a statement last week that basically said she didn’t get the proper apology due her, but she didn’t want to see Jang face any more stinging criticism.

As fallout from all of this, Jang’s Beyonce dance created a backlash in South Korea that Jang didn’t see coming.

The backlash is twofold.

First, there’s an element of Korean culture critical of Jang’s animated, celebratory style.

“The Korean culture is much more reserved than celebratory,” an LPGA/South Korean liaison said. “So when she did [the Beyonce dance], a lot of people thought it was a little overboard.”

Chun’s situation exacerbated that. Her supporters complained that Jang’s dance was ungracious and ill-timed, given Jang’s father’s role in Chun being sidelined.

Here’s how highly scrutinized this whole issue is back in South Korea. Even before Chun’s injury, Jang’s “Samurai Lasso” victory move was criticized by some as disrespectful, with Jang hearing complaints that she should have compared her sword-like slashes to Korean fencing moves, not to a Japanese Samurai move.

“In Korea, it’s a very big issue,” Jang said.

Jang said she used the Samurai term sitting in front of American media because she believed the term translated better, was more easily understood by English audiences. Still, the intense scrutiny over Jang’s flamboyant style appears to be taking a toll on her. She wiped away tears Tuesday after trying to explain the situation to American media without inflaming the issue back in her homeland. She’s walking on egg shells trying to the right thing this week, trying to please American and Korean fan bases.

“It’s hard on my heart,” Jang said. “It’s a little sad.”

This is the difficult terrain Jang is trying to play through this week.

It isn’t just a South Korean issue. It’s a potentially unfortunate turn for the LPGA, because there is something about Jang that might prove to be transformative. This is a delicate topic, but there’s no getting around how South Korean dynamics play in the United States. Even after a decade of dominance, there’s a certain segment of American audiences who remain cold to South Korea’s omnipresence on LPGA leaderboards. You see it in Internet commentary threads, in chat rooms and in tweets.

Jang’s nature, the way she elicits smiles in galleries throughout her round, is potentially game changing. Her body language may be the most eloquent in the women’s game. Her mannerisms and expressions transcend spoken language. In that way, she connects meaningfully with fans without having to utter a word.

Getty Images photographer Scott Halleran, who has been shooting golf for 27 years, followed Jang for the first time in Sunday’s final round in Singapore. He makes his living trying to capture more than images. He tries to capture moments that speak to people in ways words never can.

“Following her was one of the most refreshing days I’ve ever had on a golf course,” Halleran said. “She’s the most passionate, energetic golfer I’ve been around in a long time. The last 30 minutes of that tournament was incredible.”

Halleran loved Jang’s Beyonce dance. More than that, he loved how much fun Jang had playing to the cameras, sidling up next to the small band at the trophy presentation and pretending to play the drums.

“It was by far the most high-energy trophy presentation I’ve ever seen,” Halleran said. “I think at some point I blurted out, `I wish you could win every week.’”

Stacy Lewis was paired with Jang in the first round of an event last year. They were among the first groups off early in the morning on a Thursday, and shortly into the round, with the sun barely up, Jang holed a birdie putt and let loose a spirited fist pump. Lewis laughed.

“It’s never too early to fist pump.” Lewis remembered saying.

David Stone was Jang’s caddie for nine months of her rookie year last season and said he thoroughly enjoyed their journey together.

“Ha Na is crazy, and I mean that in the best sense of the word,” Stone said. “She is funny, always smiling, joking about everything. Practice rounds with her were hilarious, some of the most fun practice rounds I’ve ever had.

“The thing about Ha Na is she is the same way on and off the golf course. Doesn’t matter if she shoots 75 or 68, she’s the same person.”

Kevin Kim, the Korean-born Web.com Tour player, put Jang through a month-long boot camp to get her ready for the start of this year.

“I’ve never seen a man or woman on the Korean tours celebrate like she does,” Kim said after watching Jang win in Ocala. “It’s just not Korean style, but she’s one of a kind.”

Dean Herden, an Australian caddie who has toted for a long line of South Korean players, including Jang, says she is a natural entertainer on and off the course.

“She is very open with people,” Herden said. “She enjoys people and going out and chatting and socializing. I never got to see her at a night club, but I’m sure she would be the life of the place.”

Herden said Jang was animated but less so while playing the Korean LPGA Tour.

“In our western culture, we love that, and Ha Na has realized this and is now opening up to it,” Herden said. “This is so healthy for our sport, and I personally hope there will be a few more younger players watching Ha Na who will realize professional golf is a living, but you can also enjoy yourself and show people how much fun you are having expressing yourself. I’m so happy Ha Na is doing what she is doing. This is what our sport needs.”

The South Korean contingent playing the LPGA is a special group.

Inbee Park will earn induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame with her 10th start this year. She doesn’t get enough credit for how important her mastery of the English language has been to her connection with American media. Park’s ability to tell her story in her record-setting runs was important to the LPGA. So Yeon Ryu and Na Yeon Choi have been important, too. They’ve been terrific Korean ambassadors in the LPGA ranks. Sei Young Kim, the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year last season, may not be as animated as Jang, but she has shown a fun-loving personality in her 14 months on tour.

For Jang, the challenge now isn’t just continuing to connect with American fans. It’s walking the line between American and Korean tastes.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”