Yani Rocks
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Super-humble superstar

World No. 1 Yani Tseng is one cool lady. If only American fans would stop for a moment and try in the slightest to look beyond the flag, they’d realize it in a heartbeat. Despite the Taiwanese 22-year-old’s rise as the most dominant golfer on the planet, breaking multiple records on her way to winning eleven tournaments across the globe, including two majors this season, Yani is the same humble, friendly, charismatic girl with a great sense of humor that she’s always been.

Among her many achievements in 2011, Yani’s highest point was playing in her native country at last month’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, particularly because her 92-year-old grandmother was in the gallery.

“It’s the first time she came out to the golf course to watch me play, and I was really happy that I won the tournament,” said Yani at her presser at Grand Cypress, the site of this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders. “I can share this trophy, this honor to all my friends in Taiwan and to my family and let the people see (me play) on the biggest stage as an LPGA superstar in Taiwan playing golf. Everyone in Taiwan was so happy. They were thinking next year to have all the LPGA players come to my hometown to play again.”

In the final round an estimated 28,000 fans came to Sunrise Golf and Country Club solely to watch Yani play, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry. The crowds were so large that dozens of “Sunrise caddies — females dressed in bright yellow jumpsuits — held hands tightly and formed a chain in an effort to contain the crowd.”

Yani didn’t realize she was such a celebrity in Taiwan until she saw the massive crowds that came out to watch. It’s still a work in progress in the U.S., but more people are recognizing her.

“When I’m on the golf course, the people are following me and watching me play, and then people know my name,” she said.  “They see my face, they know I’m Yani.  So I’m really happy on the course and to always have some people to follow you, play with and watch you play, everybody say, oh, you’re so nice. I was just really happy to hear that. And now even at the airports, some fans recognize me, so that’s really good.”

Yani clinched the Player of the Year Award, which she also won in 2010, a month ago. She’s also locked up the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Since becoming No. 1 in February, Yani has separated herself from the rest of the best, leading No. 2 Suzann Pettersen by 7.52 points in the Rolex World Rankings. Yani has leads the money list with $2.88 million, approximately $1.45 million more than second-place Cristie Kerr.

Despite all she’s achieved, Yani continues to yearn for challenges and improve on everything she does — whether it’s golf, other sports, language skills, etc. Last year in the short off-season, she took English classes to improve her grasp of the language (which, mind you, she already spoke quite well).

What else does she work hard at?

“To have fun,” Yani said, smiling. “I try to work hard on my physical shape, too. Between English and practice…I mean, I don’t have too much time — even when we have a week off, we still have to practice. I try to make that balance, to have fun, to go watch movies, to hang out with my friends and try to enjoy everything.

“Now I’m 22, so I start tasting the good red wine. So it’s just something that I can do to get through life.”

Cheers to Yani.