Girls' Junior Champ Shin, 13, Not Intimidated
By Ken Klavon, USGA
North Plains, Ore. – She received her roses.
Jenny Shin, the 13-year-old wunderkind, had just won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 37 holes and phoned her father back home in Torrance, Calif., to share the news. He told her that when she flew back home, he’d be waiting in the airport with 100 beautiful roses.
Dad, a hat designer, came through.
“Yeah, he did,” said a beaming Shin while preparing at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club for her first Women’s Amateur. “Not 100 because I told him 100 would be too much for me to carry.”
Shin didn’t realize the impact winning would have on her life. For starters, it earned her an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur. The championship’s second-youngest champion also had many well-wishers bombard her cell phone and e-mail. That’s the positive news. The bad news, if it can be construed as bad news, is that Shin has set the bar higher for herself.
Shin moved from Korea when she was 9 because the cost of registering in tournaments there was too expensive. Many other junior golfers, like 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur Sihwan Kim, have left the old country with hopes that the U.S. will provide a better opportunity. It’s worked in the Girls’ Junior, where five of the last eight champions have been of Korean descent.
When Shin moved to the United States, an acquaintance put her in touch with lead instructor Don Brown at Harbor Golf Practice Range in Wilmington, Calif. She has taken his advice and become a workaholic on the course.
Shin’s mom, Hyun OK Shin, travels with her and specially prepares Korean food that they bring on each trip. It is from her parents that Shin has developed a steely discipline. She cited at the Girls’ Junior before facing Vicky Hurst, three years her senior, in the final that skill, not age, would determine a champion. That subplot comes up again this week as she is the youngest player in the field.
“It was surprising,” said Shin of winning the Girls’ Junior. “But now it puts a little more pressure on me. Now I have to do better.”
As soon as her plane touched down at Los Angeles International Airport following the Girls’ Junior, Shin immediately got back to work. Friends and family inundated her with tapes of her playing at the Girls’ Junior, which was a blessing for the newly crowned champion. It allowed Shin, a perfectionist, to focus on weak areas of her game.
And what could be wrong with her game after winning a national championship?
“I’ve been fixing my swing,” she said.
Her swing? She did average roughly 225 off the tee at the Girls’ Junior, but besides that, it was sound enough to win. Brown told her that he’s amazed that she’s been successful because of how many incarnations she develops.
“I don’t really have a swing yet,” said Shin. “He told me that I’m the first student he ever had that changed their swing so much.”
Even though she’s about to enter Torrance High School as a freshman, she’s not as demure heading into this week. It showed on the practice range Saturday as she made small talk with a number of players, one of those being Hurst. It was the first time they saw each other since Hurst conceded at Carmel Country Club. They smiled and spoke about traveling.
After that, it was back to business for Shin. She wasn’t ready to commit to displacing Laura Baugh (16 years, two months and 21 days) as the youngest Women’s Amateur champion, but she does believe she can hold her own against some players who are two, three and even four times her age.
“I hope I make the cut here,” said Shin. “There are a lot of good players. But I’m not really going against everyone. I just have to play the course.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.