May
24
2010
Whatch-Yoo Talking About
By Stephanie Wei under General

Unfortunately, Sun Young Yoo declined a post-win interview with the Golf Channel — presumably because she’s not used to the spotlight and was too nervous to speak English on-camera. Or something.

I mean, I understand, but it’s little things like this that cause rants over the Koreans having no personality and not being to tell the difference from one to another. As a Chinese-American, I even have trouble! One fellow scribe said he just learned how to pronounce Jiyai’s name properly. And earlier this week, I asked a player who she had played against in the past or who she was playing. A look of embarrassment crossed her face before she replied, “Um, Song-Hee Kim?” I responded, ” Oh, okay…who’s she? Never mind.” We shared a knowing chuckle and moved on.

So, I’m watching Sun and Stanford by the 17th green and I found myself standing next to Jiyai Shin and Amy Yang. As it becomes apparent Sun is going to beat Stanford, GC’s Val Skinner called out to Jiyai, “How’s Sun’s English? Can she do an interview?” Jiyai responded with a confident “Yes.” (And with a look that screamed, “Duh!”)

Rather loudly, Val informed the people on the other end of her headset (which would be basically everyone who works on the Golf Channel — Jerry’s driver on Thursday let me borrow his for a few holes and I felt like I was eavesdropping), “The report is [Yoo] can speak English.” Had to be there, but trust me, it was funny. At least to me.

Yoo spoke English fine in her post-round press conference. A few times she looked to the translator for help. But she certainly spoke well enough to say a few words on the Golf Channel.

In the media room, we were pressing her to share more details on her life and family, and she appeared baffled why we wanted to know that info. When one reporter asked her what her parents did for a living, she repeated it back to the translator in Korean to make sure she heard him correctly. It seemed like she said, “Why?” Or something to that sentiment.

I can tell she’s shy, though. Afterward, an LPGA official learned of the story with her sister and the car accident and asked them to share it with the three of us there — including yours truly — but at first, they both laughed while waving their arms in refusal and said, “No, no!” The LPGA official nudged them and explained to Sun that it was good press for her and a way to build up her fan base.

Sun was more forthcoming once we were in a smaller, less hectic setting, which encouraged her to open up. It’s partly a cultural thing (trust me, I grew up with it.). Meanwhile, I’ve encountered the “Why-on-Earth-Do-You-Want-to-Know-About-Random-Crap” response from a number of Americans when asked similar questions, too. Americans are just more familiar or “get” the self-promotion, PR angle that’s required and helpful for them.

Sun is super sweet, but a little reticent with people she doesn’t know and don’t speak her native tongue (which is only natural) — definitely the type where once you get to know her, she probably doesn’t shut up (not a bad thing).

Speaking of which, I’ve been rambling for 400 words too long. Okay, one last random encounter. I was walking toward the clubhouse and happened to pass Sun’s caddie, Kurt Kowaluk, who said, “Are you Wei Under Par?” I was completely caught off guard and the initial shock caused me to pause for second before saying, “Yeah.” Technically I’m “Stephanie Wei,” but close enough.

I congratulated him on his great win. He told me he’s read my blog a couple of times and said nice things. I asked, “How did you come across it?” “I’m friends with Ray Kim,” he replied. “He showed me your site when we were in Mexico.”

Oh, of course! Now it all makes sense. (Damn! I almost thought I was semi-famous for a half-second.) I love talking with caddies because they have so much insight and are really knowledgeable. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity to ask him what was the main factor that contributed to Sun’s win and fantastic play. He had a great answer, which I mentioned here. Kurt, if you’re reading, thanks!

[Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters because my crappy phone with the crappy camera ran out of battery without warning on 13]