Parents sacrificed for Stanford golfer Andrew Yun
|SF Gate Photo|
Andrew Yun embraced golf as a 7-year-old in Tacoma, Wash. He had played tennis previously, but he joined his dad on the links one day and soon came to savor the game's unique nature - facing the course more than an opponent.
At 14, already an accomplished junior player, Yun was emboldened enough to pose a weighty question to his parents: Want to move to Arizona?
It became a pivotal moment in Yun's winding path to Stanford, where he blossomed into the Cardinal's top player this season. Yun, a sophomore, is ranked No. 2 in the nation by Golfweek entering the Pac-10 championships, which begin today at Stanford.
The idea of moving to a warmer, practice-friendly climate is hardly revolutionary. Some of Yun's friends from junior tournaments made similar moves. Paula Creamer and her parents relocated from Pleasanton to Florida when she was 14, so she could attend a golf academy.
Still, year-round sunshine hardly guarantees Creamer-like success. And Yun's family had firm roots in the Pacific Northwest: His parents, Paul and Gloria, lived in Tacoma for 25 years after coming to the United States from Korea.
They owned several convenience stores and gas stations in Washington. They sold all but two of them and headed to suburban Phoenix, even if they knew few people there. (They now manage a hotel in Mesa, Ariz.) It helped that Yun's two older sisters already were in college at the time.
"It was something I suggested, and it obviously was a very tough decision for my parents," Yun said this week. "They sacrificed so much for me. They felt like I knew what I was talking about, even though I was 14. They knew it would help my game a lot in the long run."
Yun struggled in the short run. He had trouble adjusting to swing changes pushed by a new coach (whom he later dropped) and tumbled from No. 3 in national junior rankings to No. 150.
He felt extra pressure his first year in Arizona, partly because his parents uprooted their lives to accommodate his ambitions - and he was going in the wrong direction.
"That really humbled me," Yun said of his plunge in the rankings.
He eventually righted himself after reconnecting for long-distance lessons with Joe Thiel, his former coach in Tacoma. Yun had the best of both worlds, with warm winters for extended practice and a coach with whom he was comfortable.
Yun doesn't hit the ball especially far - his average drive travels 275-280 yards, by his estimate (Editor's note ---- watching Andrew in the Pac 10 showed he can hit it 300+ yards when he wants to) - but he leans on accuracy and a sharp short game. He has posted Stanford's low score in six of seven events this season, with five top-5 finishes. (he added another top 5 finish in the Pac 10 tourney finishing 4th).
Now comes a conference tournament with a history of producing individual winners who later thrive as pros, from Scott Simpson (1975-76) and Corey Pavin ('82) to Phil Mickelson ('90) and Tiger Woods ('96). Yun is a long way from matching those players, but he's already come a long way.
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