Shin overcame tragedy to contend

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- She's a singing golfer who plays with her mother's guidance from above.

She also might be the best player you've never heard of, although that won't be the case for much longer.

"It's getting better right now," Jiyai Shin said Wednesday after her pro-am round at St. Charles. "I was really surprised, because some of the gallery came to me and said, 'Oh, you're my favourite golfer.' Here and the States. I really appreciate it.

"When I came here this morning, lots of fans were following me and watching me. I'm really happy about that -- and surprised, too."

She shouldn't be. The 22-year-old Korean is basically the Ken Dryden of the LPGA Tour, winning three times and earning more than $1 million in 2008 -- a year before becoming a full-time member in 2009.

Shin, who stands 5-foot-1 but has earned the nickname of "Chalk Line" due to her accuracy off the tee, won three more times last year and was the slam-dunk winner of the rookie of the year award. She came oh so close to nabbing the player of the year award as well, falling just short of Lorena Ochoa. Nancy Lopez is the only player who has accomplished the feat.

Twice this year Shin has been at the top of the world ranking, and she has a shot at getting back there with a strong showing this week. She should contend considering she's finished no worse than sixth in nine of 12 starts this year.

It's amazing Shin had the strength to go on, however, after a tragic and heartbreaking day eight years ago. Her mom, Song Suk Na, was driving Shin's younger brother and sister to a birthday party when their vehicle was broadsided by a garbage truck.

Her mom was killed, and her siblings were so seriously injured that they both spent nearly a year recovering. Shin essentially moved into the hospital to be there for Ji Won, her sister, and Ji Hoon.

She didn't stop playing golf, however. Shin said the situation drove her to get better.

"After my mom pass away, I get more of a strong mind," Shin said in halted but understandable English. "I was thinking I have to play more than before, because I have one younger brother and one younger sister who had to stay in the hospital for almost a year. I just cared for my brother and sister, and then played. It was hard, but it made me strong.

"... When I (looked) at my brother and sister, I say just do it. Go practise. I have to for success."

Shin believes her mom is with her for every round, every hole, every shot.

"I know my mom's always with me in the sky," she said, pointing up. "Before my mom's dying, I never win. After three or four months I get my first win. After that year I won seven (junior) events."

Her mom's memory was also with Shin when she dived into her other passion of singing. Last year she recorded a gospel CD in her native land that is reportedly selling well. There are 11 Korean and four English songs on the disc, the proceeds of which are going to charity, and plans are in the works for a second one later this year.

"I'm really happy to sing a song," said Shin, whose father is a pastor. "The Korean people know my singing, so they said I should try to make an album. My fans pushed to me, so I made it."

One of her first musical recordings, which she made after the 2008 golf season, was a remake of a song called Don't Say Goodbye.

It was her mom's favourite song.


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