Yun graduates into Symetra Tour's winner's circle

Hannah Yun

Hannah Yun

REUNION, Fla. – Hannah Yun rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole just as the heavens opened. The only thing sloppy about this finish was the closing ceremony, which carried on in the midst of driving rain.

“That’s not how it played out in my mind,” Yun said with a laugh Sunday after her two-stroke victory over Alena Sharp at the Volvik Championship. Yun, 21, jumped from No. 48 to 18th on the money list with her $15,000 payday. She has one event left to climb into the top 10 to secure an LPGA card.

There’s no doubt that Yun’s journey to victory is among the tour’s most extraordinary. A former child prodigy, Yun graduated from high school at age 15 and celebrated her 16th birthday with teammates at the University of Florida.

“I remember that because it’s the last birthday party I had,” Yun said from the dry porch of the tournament office.

Yun quit the Gators golf team twice in one year and turned professional at age 17. By 18, the devout Christian had quit golf and moved to South Korea to live in a Buddhist temple for six weeks. Her mother prayed she wouldn’t shave her head.

Yun came back to the U.S. refreshed and rebuilt her golf swing. In December 2011, she earned an LPGA card at Q-School. It was a tough season for Yun, however, as she finished 115th on the money list. Back to the Symetra Tour.

Yun didn’t shave her head this season but cut most of it off to the horror of her mother.

“I’m probably the worst well-behaved daughter in the world,” she said.

This was a season of independence for Yun, who three months ago decided she no longer wanted to travel with her parents. As an only child who has devoted her entire life to chasing LPGA success in the cocoon of mom and dad, this was major stuff.

“My relationship with my parents is one of the biggest things I’ve changed this year,” she said. “It’s more like a parent/daughter relationship now, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what it was before, but it was a little messy and stressful for all three of us. It was tough at first, but I think it was the right thing to do.”

Yun’s parents dropped so far off the golf radar that they don’t even follow live scoring. She planned to text her dad and ask him to send a little extra bonus money for her caddie, Benito. Then she planned to share the good news.

It’s not as if this victory was easily predicted. She missed three of her last four cuts before converting 17 birdie putts in the last three rounds at Reunion's Palmer Course. She missed only one fairway for the week.

Yun dropped her parents, who now live in San Diego, and picked up two Mexican brothers (Benito and Lio) to serve as caddie/coach. She even bought a Spanish dictionary.

“I have had the most fun these past few months than I have probably had since I was a little kid,” Yun said. On Saturday night, Yun and her caddie went to Bongos Cuban Cafe at Downtown Disney. She lived in Florida for nine years with her parents and not once went with them to Disney World.

Free time for Yun now means more than merely sitting in a hotel room.

“I get to leave the course at 2 p.m. if I want,” she said. “I don’t have to wait until the sun goes down.”

Tonight, she’s free to stay out and celebrate until the sun comes up. We won’t tell mom and dad.

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