Lee, Kim get attached to Sarah, Birdie

Name of game is change

Pak tries to recover form

Wie could change mind

LPGA Championship notebook

Golf

June 09, 2005|By Kim Phelan | Kim Phelan,SUN STAFF

When four-year LPGA tour veteran Jung Yeon Lee decided to go by Sarah Lee instead of her Korean name, it was not because she was inspired by a box of cheesecake.

"When I was born in London," Lee said, "my mother, an English tutor, named me [Sarah], also. I got an English name and that's why I decided."

Born in England to Korean parents, Lee was known as Sarah until the age of 4, when she returned to Korea with her family.

While the bakery connection draws smiles, Lee says her name also has some sweet rewards.

"A lot of people are thinking, `Who is Sarah Lee?' because they're thinking of bakery name so it is easy to remember and they're really friendly," said Lee, who had four top-10 finishes last year.

Lee's name change came only a few months after Ju Yun Kim announced, at the start of her second season on tour, that she would henceforth be known as Birdie Kim. In her opinion, there were simply "too many Kims." There are six players named Kim on the tour this season.

"I wanted to be recognized, so the spectator could know me and remember me," said Kim, 23, whose best finish was a tie for seventh in the recent Chick-fil-A Charity Championship..

While Lee also changed her name for the recognition purposes, she is hoping it will also have positive effects on her play.

A three-year veteran of the LPGA circuit, she found her name frequently mispronounced or misspelled in announcements, on scoreboards and in the media, and found it began to affect her performances.

"Every time I see it, I feel bad and every time I feel bad, I play bad, so I changed it and nobody makes a mistake."

Problems for Pak

Considering how many Koreans (26) are on the LPGA Tour and how many of them are in the top 20 (five), there's a bit of irony in what has happened to the player who has long been considered the best ever to come out of that golf-crazy country.

Se Ri Pak, who made her first splash by winning the McDonald's LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open, as well as two other events in a three- month span in 1998, is in the midst of the worst stretch of her seven-year career. After dropping out of the top 10 last season for only the second time, she is currently 107th on the money list with $26,311.

Pak finished 77th - dead last - among those who made the cut at last week's ShopRite Classic.

Her best finish so far this year was a tie for 27th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She missed the cut at two other events.

Many, including Pak, trace her problems to her last victory, in the 2004 Michelob ULTRA Open, which helped her meet the criteria for membership in the LPGA's Hall of Fame. Pak will be inducted in 2007, when she completes 10 years on the tour.

She said yesterday that her troubles are partly mechanical and partly mental.

"Actually I'm trying to get back to my [old swing], but I'm not focusing that well," said Pak, who missed the cut in the next two events after her last victory.

"It's here and there. This is not a new thing. I'm doing the best as I can and, at the same time, trying to enjoy it."

Wie: Question is when

The speculation about when 15-year-old phenom Michelle Wie will turn professional took a new turn yesterday when she admitted she might reconsider her intentions of remaining an amateur in the near future if she wins the LPGA Championship.

"If I turn pro or not, I'm definitely going to college," she said, "but it would tempt me a little with all the money and stuff like that.

"I like being an amateur, but I'm still a little too young to handle that money. I can barely manage my allowance."

And how much would that be? "I earn my allowance. I play for my allowance," she said. "Every under par, I get money and stuff like that."

Wie recently finished her sophomore year of high school in Honolulu, and got through final exams with the help of a sports psychologist she uses for golf.

"He was like, 'Are there any problems you need to talk about on the golf course?'" Wie said.

"I was like, `No, I have to talk about my math tests.'"

After the tests, Wie said she relieved her stress by hitting balls.

"I never felt that stressed before in my life," she said. "After all my exams, I go out on the range and hit tons and tons of balls.

"Like every teacher, whack. It was like boxing."

Creamer degree-minded

Recent high school graduate and rookie Paula Creamer, who recently became the youngest player in LPGA history to win a full-fledged event, has made tentative plans to go for a college degree starting this fall.

Creamer, who is deciding between the University of Miami and University of Phoenix, will complete her degree online and is already contemplating her major.

"Probably communications," said Creamer, 18. "I'd really love to do fashion design, but that would be really hard to do out on the road."

Creamer, who attended her high school graduation in Bradenton, Fla., a few days after winning the Sybase Classic last month, is unsure how long it will take her to receive her degree, except that it will be "a very long time."

Sun staff writer Don Markus contributed to this article.

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