By Becky Gee
In an age of scripted interview answers and stilted celebrations, Ha Na Jang is somewhat of a revelation.
Animated and passionate on the course, the South Korean breaks the mould in a country where golfers are expected to let their game, rather than actions, do the talking.
Jang’s flamboyancy may have garnered her a big following on the LPGA, but back in Korea, where women’s golf is a seriously big deal, the dance moves for which has become synonymous don’t fly so well.
Her larger than life persona was coupled with an extraordinary performance at Royal Adalaide Golf Club on Sunday.
As her competitors faded down the stretch, unable to deal with the inclement weather conditions, Jang produced some scintillating golf, birdieing 13 and 14, before finishing eagle, birdie to pick up her fourth LPGA career win. The twenty-four-year old’s ability to overcome a four-shot deficit with six holes to play would have been impressive enough if not for the conditions which made par, let alone birdie, an impressive feat.
To anyone on the outside, the kangaroo-eske dance moves which followed her victory may have seemed a fitting celebration for someone who had just pulled of the seeming impossible. In reality the cheeky moves signalled a sign of defiance against a Korean media firestorm which had gone some way to derailing her 2016 season.
The drama started last March, before the HSBC Women’s Champions, when Jang’s father dropped a heavy travel bag down an airport escalator, striking rival and compatriot In Gee Chun in the lower back.
The accident would keep Chun, another of the more charismatic Korean players, side-lined for the next three weeks, jeopardising her race for one of the four hotly contested places on the country’s Olympic squad.
The incident may have passed largely unnoticed if not for Jang’s victory that week, which, coupled with one of her more characteristic dance moves, created a backlash back home for which neither of the young rising stars were equipped to deal.
As the two golfers continued to hit the headlines, the criticism against Jang left her struggling to leave her hotel room, and after taking a break from the tour in the late spring, she was hospitalised with dizziness and insomnia.
As Jang lit up the fairways yesterday, with her big smile and impassioned fist pumps, it was clear that her presence on tour could be nothing but great for the game.
At a time when her compatriots dominate the leaderboard on a weekly basis, Jang remains one of the few Korean players capable of drawing a substantial fan base outside of her native country.
With her inspired play, it’s hard to believe there won’t be more victories this season. What can be sure is that few won’t be willing her on.
Credit- LPGA/Getty Images
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