Nam good for an 18-year-old

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

At first glance it's easy to look at 18-year-old Susan Nam's ridiculous talent and assume, like we do with most wonderkinds, that she was born with it.

She's only been golfing five years, after all, so those 250-yard drives down the middle, those rounds in the 60s, those junior championships and that college scholarship all come from an innate, natural gift, right?

Right, and all it took to draw out that natural gift was five hours a day, every day, on the range.

"Every day," she smiled. "I really want to keep pushing myself to get better and to be the best. It is boring, but I just try to keep pushing me."

FIFTH AT NATIONALS

So far, so good. After winning the Edmonton and Alberta Junior Girl's championships and finishing fifth at the Canadian Juniors, Nam is making the transition to the grown-up division with precious little difficulty - she's the first-round leader in the Edmonton Ladies Amateur after a one-over-par 74 at the Highlands.

"Pretty happy, but it could have been better," said Nam, who went 35-39 on a course that plays par 73 for the women. "But I always feel like that after a round."

If she closes out the 36-hole tournament with a win today, it'll be the biggest win of her young career, but she's not feeling any pressure yet.

"Not really, because everyone is older," said Nam, who is two strokes ahead of 22-year-old Christina Lecuyer, who won this event in 2002. "Being the youngest here ... it doesn't matter if I don't win as long as I shoot good."

Nam didn't even pick up a golf club until five years ago, when her family emigrated from Korea, but has more than made up for lost time with her Vijay Singh-like work ethic.

"I never even knew about golf," she said. "Then I came here and found there's nothing to do after school, so my uncle (James Her) took me to the golf course and we hit some balls. I started late."

And she practises even later, with Her as the taskmaster. Four or five hours a day, every day. In the winter, you can find her wearing tracks in the mats at the Golf Dome. Four or five hours a day. Every day.

"He's pushing me hard," she said, adding she wouldn't have it any other way. "I want to get better, I want to lower my scores."

It's working, and it's caught the attention of Florida International University in Miami, which offered her a full scholarship.

"That's going to be exciting, playing golf all year-round," she said. "They phoned me about 100 times. I went down for a visit and really liked the practice facilities down there."

In the meantime, she'll have to fend off a handful of more experience challengers in today's final round, starting with Lecuyer (39-37), who's on summer holidays from the University of Central Arkansas.

"To be honest, I'd rather be behind right now," said Lecuyer, who's had the lead, or a share of it, heading into the final round in each of the last three years, but only closed the deal once. "I obviously didn't do very well playing with the lead the last two years. But anyone can win this. It's all about Tuesday. There's no one who's running away with the show."

STRONG FIELD

Defending champion Jil Swenson has her work cut out after an opening-round 81. She overcame an opening round 83 to win last year's title, her third, but knows it'll be very difficult to pull off that kind of comeback again.

"It's a better field this year, probably the strongest field we've had in a long time," said Swenson, adding anything can happen in the final round of a golf tournament. "You saw what happen to (Retief) Goosen on Sunday."


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