Shi Hyun Ahn may not yet be a household name among most followers of the LPGA Tour, but Annika Sorenstam, back-to-back winner of the LPGA Championship, said Sunday she knew all about the 19-year-old South Korean who finished second in playing in her first major championship.
"I've played with her several times," Sorenstam said. "She's an impressive player. I've told my husband and my caddy that I think she's the real deal. I love the way she swings. She has good tempo and her putting stroke is real good. I've been impressed with her since she came out here."
Ahn is one of 21 players from South Korea playing in America. She played in only two tour events last year, winning the CJ Nine Bridges Classic, an LPGA tournament played in South Korea. That victory made her the youngest international winner in LPGA history and gave her an exemption for the next two seasons.
Ahn's 66 was the lowest score and the only bogey-free round in Sunday's final round. She started playing golf at age 13 and said through an interpreter her game started to take off when she was 17. She speaks little English, and her parents have been traveling with her for the 2004 season.
"The language is the hardest part," she said. "I never played 36 holes [in a day] before and I was worried it was going to be hard and boring and tiring. But my shots felt good, so I had a good time and enjoyed the game."
Good Walk for Rankin
Reilley Rankin, only two shots off the lead going into the final two rounds, posted a 71 and 73 and finished in a tie for 11th in playing in her first major championship. Rankin, a rookie who survived major back injuries from a 67-foot jump into an Alabama lake in 1999 to resume her career two years later, said she had no physical problems going 36 holes.
"It was a great experience," she said. "There's a lot to take from it and build. It becomes a little longer day when you don't make many birdies."
Black Cat of Courage
Sorenstam went over the $1 million mark in season earnings for the fifth straight season and for the seventh time in the last eight years. But she seemed even more proud to reveal that three weeks ago she summoned the courage to have a Halloween cat tattooed on the lower left side of her back.
She showed the black cat with an arched back to several inquisitive reporters with a little urging from her husband, David Esch, after her victory news conference. "I guess it's my feisty side," she said. "Yeah, it hurt big time."