Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hannah Yun Interview, Part I

I've been following the twists and turns of Hannah Yun's golf career from afar for almost 2 years now. Between her potential on the course and interest in anime off it, she's definitely Mostly Harmless material. Last summer, I was hoping to follow her in person for a few holes at the Futures Tour event in Syracuse, but didn't take into account the power of onechan and imoto. So when I saw that Dave Andrews at Cybergolf and Happy Fan at the Seoul Sisters blog recently picked Yun to finish high on the Futures Tour money list this season, I figured I'd see if she was available for an e-interview. She graciously agreed to answer one question at a time via email. Here are the results of our first 2 weeks or so of correspondence, focusing on her prospects for her 2nd full year on the Futures Tour, the work she's been putting into her game, and the path she's taken this past decade.


THE CONSTRUCTIVIST (1/12/10): I see you were paired in the first round of the Rio Pinar event on the SunCoast Series with a friend of mine from central NY, Moira Dunn. We played junior golf together in the Mohawk Valley back in the 1980s. I hope she had plenty of tips for you about playing golf in cold weather. So how did your first competitive round of the season go? What was it like playing with Moira, who's been on the LPGA for almost as long as you've been on the planet?

HANNAH YUN: Well, I haven't played in competition in about a month so I was excited to start again. I felt like I was prepared to go out and start competing. I'm only 2 strokes off the lead after the first round so I'm happy that I was able to put myself in contention. I didn't get to talk a lot with Moira because we were in separate carts, but it was obviously a great experience for me being able to play with someone that's been on Tour for such a long time. My goal is to be able to consistently compete on the LPGA Tour so today was sort of a sample of what I'd be doing I guess haha.

TC (1/13): Even par in 50-something degree weather is pretty solid golf, especially in January. How did playing in the final threesome today go? I'm curious about how you approach early-season developmental tour events like this one. Is it just like any tournament, or are you working on something specific--physical, mental, strategic, whatever--to prepare yourself for later, bigger events?

HY: Today I rode with Meredith Duncan, who's also played on the LPGA for 6 years. It was a treat for me to play with another person who has so much experience. The final pairing is the same tomorrow, so it'll be another fun learning experience for me. Being so early in the season I do have things that I'm trying to achieve by March, when the FUTURES Tour starts, but I also have to remember that I'm playing in a tournament so I should focus on scoring and competing. I've been working a lot on my technique since October, so now I'm trying to work on my mental game during competition. I'm embarrassed to say this but one of the things I'm working on is to be able to focus throughout 18 holes. I'm starting to learn and understand the balance of switching focus on and off. Switching off is easy for me :D but after a while I lose the ability to turn my focus back on. By playing in pre-season events like the SunCoast Series, I'm able to see on a day-to-day basis how my focus holds up during competition while preparing for the upcoming season.

TC (1/14): Makes a lot of sense to me. I haven't been playing much since I became a dad at the end of 2003, but the longer a round takes, the harder I find it to keep my focus. My ideal round now is walking 18 alone and getting done in 2 and a half hours. Slow play probably isn't an issue with such a small field, but it seems to be something you can't avoid having to deal with as your pro career unfolds. In any case, the adrenaline that goes with being in the final pairing in the final round of any event has gotta be good for your focus, eh? Good luck tomorrow!

Going back to technique for a moment, it sure looks to me (from the photos and video clip your dad emailed me) like you've been working on some pretty major changes to your stance and swing. Compared to last March, you look like you're standing a lot straighter at address and keeping your spine angle more stable throughout the swing. I'm sure I'm missing a lot. Care to share what you've been working on, technique-wise? How would you grade your progress so far? From where I sit, everything looks great. How does it feel out on the course?

HY (1/16): Thank you! I think my swing is pretty good, if I say so myself haha ;) The main things that I've been working on are balance and sequence. I've been working a fair amount on maintaining my balance and making sure my body is doing what it naturally wants to do. Surprisingly, it's turned into more of a science than I imagined. With the technology we have today, I'm able to analyze the bio-mechanics of my body during the golf swing and try to make everything more efficient. I also focused my exercise and training around this. A simple strength test found that my left leg was significantly weaker than my right leg, which was the effect of falling back on my swing for so long. I was never able to get my body to transition to my left side and as a result, the right leg got stronger and the left leg weaker. So I've been focusing more of my exercises for my left leg and I've also been doing much more stretching. It's been about 3 months but I feel like I've already made major strides in improving. I feel like I can start visualizing different types of ball flight without any effort; it's really a different kind of game and it makes golf more exciting for me every time I find something new through hard work.

Sorry for the late reply >_<

TC (1/17): No need to apologize--well worth the wait! Technology today is pretty amazing, eh? We don't have a Wii, much less a Wii Fit (yet...), but from playing at friends' places (with the kids, of course!) I found out my center of gravity is way back on my heels. One of those friends, who's a concert violinist, told me that becoming more aware of his center of gravity has helped his playing in a big way. I suppose you get to use even cooler toys at the David Leadbetter Academy. Somehow when reading your "bio-mechanics of my body" phrase I pictured you and your team using some kind of EA Sports/Avataresque body-motion capture tech--then I got images of Lance Armstrong in a wind tunnel preparing for the Tour de France and Michael Phelps in a hi-tech tank working on his strokes for the Olympics.... Is that way far-fetched?

HY: Hahaha unfortunately I don't have THAT kind of technology with me, but I've been to Titleist's TPI Center in Carlsbad, CA before. It was really cool because they had me wear this vest and put all these shiny silver dots on my body. I remember it clearly because I had to put my pony tail up like a sumo wrestler for the dot on my forehead... not one of my finest moments :( But I mainly did my work with a high speed camera, swing evaluation software called Quntic, which is similar to the V1 software, and a lot of help. Thankfully my coach works with a bio-mechanics expert in Europe who works with Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, and other Tour players, so he's very knowledgable about the natural movements the body wants to make for an efficient swing. By the way, I have the Wii Fit too! I think it's a great game that not only makes you more aware of your balance but also gives you a good work-out while having fun.

TC (1/18): Yeah, my wife and I are definitely going to have to give in soon on the Wii and Wii Fit! Just this morning our 3-year-old was going over the list of our friends who have it and she told us she wanted a "big black television" like the one my violinist friend's family has. The compromise we arrived at is that she and her 6-year-old sister have to save their allowances for a Wii and we'll take care of the rest when they have. (Just like what my parents did when my little brother and I wanted an Atari 2600--some things never change, I guess.)

In the bio your dad sent me, I read that you all moved from just outside San Jose when you were 9 to a town north of San Diego and then when you were 12 you convinced your folks to enroll you in the Leadbetter Academy and move to Bradenton, FL! How did you swing that? You must have been incredibly determined and persuasive. When I was that age I considered the Atari compromise a huge victory!

HY: When you do get the Wii, I recommend the Wii Fit Plus. It has all the games of the Wii Fit, PLUS other fun games that they've added.

The Florida deal was definitely a big decision for both my parents and me. I originally started playing golf because my parents enjoyed it so much and they wanted me to be able to go out on weekends and play with them. I was 4 years old when I first grabbed a golf club but I can't say that I immediately fell in love with the game... mostly because I don't remember much from when I was 4 haha. But I do remember that I had the best time of my life when I was old enough to start going out on the golf course and play with my parents. I started to play in San Diego County junior tournaments when I was 9 and it was then that I decided that I wanted to become a professional golfer, and it was then that my poor parents had to start driving me around southern CA to play in tournaments. So naturally, when I had heard that there was a school just for golf, I soaked in every last detail and literally started singing that my dream would come true. I'm very blessed because my dad is in the software business so he can work from anywhere and my mom is busy enough taking care of me. With my dad's support we were able to strike up a deal with my mom, which is how I ended up where I am today :)

By the way, the deal was that once we set foot in Florida, there was no turning back. I was either going to make it to the LPGA or die trying. It's still ongoing ;)

TC (1/25): Sorry for the delay--got busy at work and a nasty stomach bug hit the whole family. Take me back to the time you decided you wanted to become a professional golfer. What went into that decision? Was there a particular player who inspired you? What was it about golf that made it your dream job?

HY: Honestly speaking, there really wasn't much thought when I first decided I wanted to play golf as a living. I was 9 years old and my coach at the time asked if I would like to be able to play on the LPGA. The actual thought process was, "Well, golf is fun... and I like playing golf... ok!" haha. But thanks to that careless way of thinking I'm now able to do something I'm passionate about every day. I have to thank my parents for introducing me to the game and supporting me through everything.

TC (1/26): Looking back, it's already been quite a ride, eh? 3 years later you moved to Bradenton, 3 years after that you entered the University of Florida, and in another 2 years you were a full-fledged member of the Futures Tour. Did you expect to be playing with the likes of Maria Hjorth and Jane Park (as you did last week on the SunCoast Series) and Stacy Lewis (as you are this week) so soon? Was Sandra Gal at the University of Florida when you were there? What was it like playing with her again--and beating her--as you did last week?

HY (2/1): Well, neither my parents nor I had anything planned out so it really has been quite an experience for us. I knew that I wanted to be a professional golfer, but I never imagined that I would've done it the way I did. I just hope that I can continue accelerating and improving throughout my career.

Sandra actually started playing on the LPGA the year I started school so I never got a chance to play with her before. She came a few times to the UF golf course so I was able to meet her. I had a lot of fun playing with Sandra; she was shaking some of the rust off because she was going through some technique changes and hadn't played a lot of golf. The last three SunCoast tournaments were a great experience not only because I could pinpoint some things to work on but also because the field consisted of LPGA and FUTURES Tour players. Every time I play a tournament my goals are to compete and learn, and I was able to do that, so I'll take the three top 5s under my belt and continue preparing for the upcoming season!


This month we plan to continue the conversation. Let me know if there's anything you'd like me to ask her!


diane said...

This is great stuff! Thanks to you and Hannah for asking and answering.

The Constructivist said...

Thanks, Diane! More coming!