I’ll always remember the first time I met Hannah Yun. It was in the summer of 2008 at a Duramed Futures Tour event in Bloomfield, Ct. On the patio outside the clubhouse at the course I happened to strike up a casual conversation with a man who turned out to be Hannah’s father. She was out on the putting green practicing.
He told me his daughter was 16 years old and she was playing on the tour that summer as an amateur. She had just finished her freshman year at the University of Florida where she had been the team’s MVP as a 15 year old. Needless to say I found that very impressive. Imagine a 15 year old as the star player on a big college golf team.
Out on the putting green she was working with Glen Kirk, the YES putter representative, who was giving her some advice on her putting stroke. I had known Glen for a couple of years and Glen told me Hannah was one of the most impressive young golfers he had ever seen. I said hi to Hannah and wished her well in the event. The next day I followed Hannah for a few holes and it took only a few minutes to realize she had a tremendous golf swing and was one of the most powerful ball strikers on the tour, despite her young age and 5’3″ frame.
I saw Hannah and her parents again a couple months later at the final Futures Tour event of the season in Albany, New York. I was caddying for another player on the tour and only got to talk with them around the putting green. I told her father I would follow Hannah’s progress at the University of Florida and we exchanged contact info.
As it turned out, Hannah’s father wrote a couple months later to tell me that Hannah decided to withdraw from the University of Florida that fall, early in her sophomore year. She had her sights set on a career on the LPGA and felt she was not progressing well enough in the school’s golf program. The following spring she began playing fulltime on the Futures Tour and I saw her several times that year. She always had power and a great technique but she was not scoring as well as planned. She finished the season in the top 50 on the money list with a stroke average of 73.4. Her best finish was a tie for 4th place. She finished the season at 50th on the tour’s money list. So, despite her talent there was still a long way to go before she could consider herself ready for the LPGA.
The following season (2010) was similar. She improved her stroke average to 72.9 but had trouble putting three good rounds together in events. She tried a couple of different caddies and her father also caddied for her, but the results were always similar. Her best finish was 15th place and she ended the season at 63rd on the money list. She shot several rounds in the mid and high 60′s, but she allso shot many in the mid 70′s. In professional golf you are not going to go far by shooting 75′s and 76′s. Hannah tried several different coaches and instructors but the results did not seem to change very much.
This year (2011) she continued to struggle and even left the tour in the summer to go back to training and practice and to work more on her game. She played in only 10 events, instead of the usual 15 or 16. She actually improved her stroke average to 72.6, but was not happy with the way she was progressing. She finished the season at 50th on the money list. Whenever I talked with Hannah or her father it was clear they were a little frustrated with the way things were going.
In September of this year, after a lot of work with her coaches, Hannah went to the second stage of LPGA Q School in Venice, Florida and had an impressive performance. She shot 5 under par for the event (68-71-71-73-283), finished in a tie for 8th place, and earned her way to the final stage of LPGA Q School in Daytona Beach, Florida. The event concluded this past Sunday. (Dec. 4th).
The week before Q School, Hannah played in a Suncoast Tour event at the Q School site at the LPGA International complex. She shot a very impressive 9 under par score (69-69-69-207) in the three-day tune up event for Q School. All appeared to be coming into place nicely. I watched her play several holes in that event and walked the course with her father as we followed her in action. She and the other players were playing out of golf carts in that event, so her father was not caddying for her as he had been during the year on the Futures Tour.
The first round of the big 5-day Q School tournament was played last Wednesday (Nov. 30th). I was following Hannah and several other players I know who were competing in the event. At the end of the day I was sitting in the coffee shop at the course when Hannah and her father walked in after finishing their round. Both were very dejected. Hannah had shot a 4 over par 76 and was not in good position after the first round. Hannah walked out of the coffee shop and her father sat down with me and told me that it was not working out well with him on Hannah’s bag. The father/daughter relationship on the golf course can often be a precarious situation.
He then surprised me when he asked me if I would consider caddying for Hannah for the four final rounds of the event. I told him that I would be happy to help if that was what he and she really wanted (I am not a professional caddie, but I have caddied for several players and generally know how to do the fundamental things that are required). He was hoping that if I could just keep her relaxed and comfortable out on the course that she would play much better golf. He went outside and Hannah came in a few minutes later and asked if I would cary her bag. I told her it would be my pleasure.
So, I caddied for Hannah the last four rounds. I did my best to keep her smiling and keep her clubs clean and my advice to myself. Apparently it all worked out. Hannah went on to shoot 74-71-72-71 and finished in a tie for 15th place in the tournament, earning her full status card on the LPGA tour for next year.
I was thrilled for her and happy to have helped in a small way. Trust me, however, Hannah didn’t need my help. She is as good a player as most of the players currently on the LPGA tour. She is going to do very well in her rookie season on the tour, and at the young age of 19 has a brilliant career to look forward to. She is also one of the nicest, most humble and modest young women I have ever had the chance to meet.
If you follow the LPGA, keep your eye on Hannah Yun in 2012. I think you will be seeing her name high up on the leaderboards in events and I hope you will be seeing a lot of her in action on Sundays when the LPGA events are on TV.
About the Author: Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. Dave is an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour and is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on tour. His home course in New Hampshire is annually the site of one of the tour’s events.