Jennifer Song turned professional two months ago and already is on track to rival the careers of Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin – in the spirit of giving.
Ochoa’s graciousness, both with her time and money, endeared her to the masses. Shin’s generosity – she gives anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of her earnings to charities in Korea – is less well-known but just as noteworthy. Song hopes her career is as impactful; the 20-year-old American plans to give away 30 percent of each paycheck. Yes, 30 percent.
“Even though my donation is little, I’m pretty sure it will help in some way,” said Song, who currently competes on a circuit (the Duramed Futures Tour) where most players lose money, making 30 percent all the more impressive.
Song’s inspiration for these charitable acts comes from her parents, who taught her as a child the importance of giving back, even when there’s not much to give.
“You have to be able to give to others when you’re not in the best situations,” said Song, who decided long before she turned professional that she’d be donating to children’s charities. “I just told my parents and God I’d be doing it until the end of (my) career.”
Song plans to give money to a local charity tour stops along the way, whether it’s on the Duramed Futures Tour or the LPGA. After the final round of the Futures Tour’s Pennsylvania Classic in Harrisburg earlier this month, Song dropped by the local Boys & Girls Club to tour the facilities. She told executive director Yvonne Echols Hollins she’d like to donate one-third of her $9,419 second-place check.
Song, who has a soft heart for children, learned about the “power hour” academic sessions that take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Pennsylvania. The center serves 1,267 young people ages 6-18. Several of the students took part in an early-week youth clinic during the tournament and were on hand Sunday for the trophy presentation. Hollins said Song’s money will go mostly to their after-school programs.
“She’s truly genuine,” said Hollins. “She speaks from her heart.”
Song donated even more money to the Boys & Girls Club of Decatur, Ill., where she won her first event as a professional and earned $17,500.
This week’s CN Canadian Women’s Open (she’s playing on a sponsor exemption) marks Song’s ninth consecutive week of competition and her 12th consecutive week of serious golf counting the week she took off to prepare for the U.S. Women’s Open. Because she’s cramming in as many events as possible to try and earn her LPGA card, there hasn’t been enough time to sort out all the donations. During the offseason, Song said she will sit down with her father and agent, J.S. Kang, to determine the stops on her trail of kindness.
“This has nothing to do with more publicity,” said Kang, who knew about this desire of Song’s long before she turned professional.
Song views this as part of her life’s mission.
A former USC standout and the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur and Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, Song turned professional immediately after the Curtis Cup in June and won the next week. In seven events on the Futures Tour, Song has won twice and is fourth on the money list with $51,375. She needs to finish in the top 5 to earn her tour card and avoid LPGA Q-School.
Ochoa got off to a start similar to Song’s after leaving Arizona. In 2002, Ochoa joined the Futures Tour mid-season and won three times, finishing first on the money list after 10 events.
In January 2008, Ochoa took time from a preseason practice session at Guadalajara Country Club to talk with Golfweek about her passions. Her school, which plants dreams in the hearts of Mexico’s underprivileged, is a sanctuary for the Mexican star. Ochoa always knew there was more to life than golf.
“I want to be remembered for the things I did outside the golf course, not for winning tournaments,” she said. “That’s very clear to me.”
Song has a drive and discipline that’s similar to that of Shin and Ochoa. So far, her game seems to be on a path reserved for the elite.
“All I need to do is get out there and play well,” Song said.
Only so there’s more to give.