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The World According To Yang

By Stuart Hall

| Jun 29, 2011

Julie Yang is not your typical 15-year-old golfer. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

 Bandon, Ore. – Fifteen-year-old girls are typically concerned with the latest Hollister or Aeropostale fashions, texting and apps, and American Idol and Glee.

For Julie Yang? Not so much.

Eight days away from her 16th birthday, Yang projects herself as someone much older. She skipped a school year and will graduate in 2012. Her favorite hobby is drawing in pencil, and then there is golf.

While many of her peers have only American junior golf experience, Yang has global experiences to draw upon. Her schedule is as worldly as it is varied.

In addition to this week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, she has played American Junior Golf Association events, but also the Ladies European Tour’s Ladies German Open, the Danish and German International Ladies Amateur championships, and the Women’s British Open.

She was born and currently lives in Seoul, Korea, but she has also lived in Thailand, the United States and Scotland.

When I am with my parents and my family, I am the youngest in the family; I am kind of annoying to my older sister, said Yang, a hint that she really is 15.

In the next breath, though, Yang is quoting from Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth’s Little Book of Golf Wisdom. The last of Whitworth’s 88 career wins was in 1985 — 10 years before Yang was born.

When I am on the golf course there is a saying that you have to be 20 years old and have a 50-year-old mind, Yang said. So it's not like I am trying to act older. Since I started golf when I was 6, which is quite young, I've gotten used to staying focused and trying to keep a high level of concentration. I hear people say you act more mature than your age.

At age 14, on the counsel of her parents, Chris and Brenda, she went to boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland, living in a dorm by herself. During her year-and-a-half abroad, she learned the usual primary educational lessons, but also how to adapt to the quirkiness of links golf and winds.

People in the States, they sometimes think that golf revolves around the States, said Yang, who speaks fluent English, Thai and Korean. That's actually not true. Golf actually started in Scotland, so why not go to the birthplace of golf and experience different stuff, and play under the wind and get used to it, because in the end it's going to be a great advantage.

Becoming a professional has always been Yang’s motivation, and based on her golf background there is little doubt that it will happen. Yang, who also lived four years in Arizona, is currently on a three-month tour of the United States, playing mostly USGA events and trying to qualify on Mondays for LPGA Tour events.

As for turning professional, the question is not if, but when, based on her answer to the query.

I am considering everything, but waiting to see how I do this summer, she said. I am getting some college offers from different places. Time will take care of things, so I am just going to see how I do this summer. It's not like I am going to quit school or anything, I'm still studying.

Through four days along the Pacific coastline, Yang has a good grasp on how to play Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald,

After shooting 7-over-par 149 in stroke play, Yang defeated Maria Ronderos of Colombia, 8 and 6, and Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, 6 and 5, in the opening two rounds of match play.

The remainder of match play will be held on Bandon’s Old Macdonald course.

Old Macdonald is very similar to my home course in Scotland, so I feel very at home here, she said.

The global travel is playing dividends this week.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.