At 17, Yealimi Noh learns life lessons on journey to LPGA Tour

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At 17, Yealimi Noh learns life lessons on journey to LPGA Tour

LPGA Tour

At 17, Yealimi Noh learns life lessons on journey to LPGA Tour

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The first thing Yealimi Noh did when she woke up on Monday morning was check to see where she stood in the Rolex Rankings. The verdict: up 220 spots to No. 338 in the world.

Outside of the obvious thrill of making a big move, this particular jump brings an added bonus: Players ranked inside the top 400 can skip the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School, a summer desert experience Noh would love to miss.

To say the first seven months of professional life have been a learning experience for 17-year-old Noh would be an understatement.

Fans watched in awe as she caught fire at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, finishing in a share of sixth place at 24-under par in her LPGA professional debut. What they didn’t see was the four previous times she tried to Monday qualify and failed.

Or the moments toiling in anonymity on the Cactus Tour and WAPT.

Come again, the what?

“I had no idea what it was,” said Noh, of the newly formed Women’s All Pro Tour, which offers exemptions into Symetra Tour events.

It wasn’t anything like she’d pictured when she decided to de-commit from UCLA and turn professional in January with no status of any kind of any tour.

The backing of sponsors, Hana Financial Group and Descente golf, made it easier to make the jump from amateur golf. Noh and her father had studied the Rolex Rankings and their research concluded that many of the game’s stars had taken a similar no-college route.

The road less traveled

That being said, most turned pro after they obtained status of some kind. In that sense, Noh took the road less traveled.

As reality sank in, she began to second-guess herself.

“I didn’t plan ahead enough,” she said.

Her father’s answer: Just go win an LPGA event.

It’s not that easy, of course, despite Noh entering the final round of an LPGA event one shot off the lead in her first attempt as a pro. But Noh’s father’s unwavering belief propped her up in the down times.

And really, the down times haven’t been going on for all that long.

“I’m actually really glad that I got to play a lot of tours that nobody even knows about,” said Noh. “I can say I’ve been through everything from the bottom and hopefully going to the top.”

There is one event in particular, Noh said, that prepared her for the spotlight of Thornberry – the Kia Women’s Open in South Korea. She played the KLPGA major on a sponsor’s exemption and was paired with several of Korea’s top players.

“It was like another level there,” said Noh of the fan support.

This is a player who welcomes the spotlight. When she’s out practicing or competing with no gallery to speak of and hits a crisp iron shot, she’s often bummed about the fact that there wasn’t a camera there to capture it.

“To have other people see what I can do,” said Noh. “That’s all I wanted to do (last) week.”

On Saturday at Thornberry, Noh received word that she’d been given a sponsor invite to this week’s Marathon Classic. She now has a chance to build on that momentum from Wisconsin. The 2018 Rolex Junior Player of the Year also has a spot in the upcoming Evian Championship.

Noh earned $63,170 in unofficial money at Thornberry. Outside of winning an LPGA event, the only other way she can play her way onto the tour would be by earning Category 10 status on the LPGA’s Priority List, which happens by earning enough money to equal whoever is 40th on the money list at season’s end. Only money from events with a cut qualify. This is how World No. 1 Sung Hyun Park earned status for 2017.

“To make a name for myself is what I came to do,” said Noh.

Sure didn’t take long.

 

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