Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mina Harigae Watch: What It Takes to Get Ready for 2010

Kevin Merfeld checks in with Mina Harigae, Futures Tour money-list leader in 2009 and one of the top prospects for LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2010. Her comments illustrate just how difficult it is to make the transition from amateur to professional golf.

"The most tournaments I played when I was an amateur was about five or six a year," Harigae said. "I played in 17 events in less than a year, so that was a huge difference for me. My first time going three or four weeks in a row, I ran out of gas at the end."

Good for her the LPGA schedule is so thin in her rookie season, then. But the travel demands will be something for a 20-year-old who had to get accustomed to being "on the road from March through September, never playing a tournament west of Texas" in that stretch. Going from Duke to the Futures Tour was challenging enough for Harigae, who decided not to make use of her "battlefield promotion" onto the LPGA after her 3rd FT win:

"I had never played in that many tournaments before, so by the end of the season I just wanted to take a month off," Harigae said. "I think taking a break benefitted me more than going out and playing more."

I wouldn't be surprised, then, if Harigae has as much trouble as '09 American rookies like last year's FT money-list leader Vicky Hurst and Q-School medalist Stacy Lewis, when it comes to adjusting to life on the LPGA and competing on an elite level week in and week out. Qualifying for next fall's Asian swing would be a great accomplishment for her. It would give her a chance to compete for Rookie of the Year against players I expect to cruise through LPGA Q-School next week like the JLPGA's Yuko Mitsuka, Solheim Cuppers Marianne Skarpnord and Gwladys Nocera from the LET, LET winner Azahara Munoz, Sweden's Pernilla Lindberg, Colombia's Mariajo Uribe, and American NCAA stars Amanda Blumenherst and Tiffany Joh.

I hope they all were paying attention to what LPGA Rookie of the Year and money-list leader Ji-Yai Shin told the Korean media on her bittersweet return to her homeland:

Shin complained of fatigue during the final weeks of the season and she plans to address that with a change in her offseason training strategy.

"I did balance training over the last three or four years. But I feel that I need more stamina to play strongly until the end of the season. So I plan to do some weight training to build strength."

Welcome to the weight room, y'all! The key, as always, is to keep your short game honed and your swing adjusted as your body changes. Everybody's going through it. Who handles it best will have the best odds for success in 2010. Gambare, Mina-chan!

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