NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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Y ealimi Noh enjoyed such a spectacular summer she deserves a nickname: Dr. Noh? Noh Doubt? Noh Diggity? But ask the 17-year-old from Concord if she does in fact have a good moniker and she looses a nervous giggle and says, "Umm…no." During the Summer of Noh, a star was born. Our plucky heroine won the U.S. Girls' Junior at Poppy Hills Golf Course, shot a record-setting 24 under to claim the Girls Junior PGA Championship, won her second California Junior Girls' crown, the Canadian Women's Amateur, earned a spot on the United States Junior Ryder Cup team and made her LPGA debut at the Canadian Women's Open. It was a long-awaited breakthrough for a supremely talented player whose accomplishments had lagged a bit behind her potential. "A year ago I kept wondering when I would win a big tournament," Noh says. "Then all of a sudden I kept winning and winning." This burst of spectacular play resulted in a life- altering decision: Noh decommitted to UCLA and decided to turn pro next year. As she sorts out the details of launching a play-for-pay career, she is con- tinuing what she calls an "internship" by competing in high-level amateur events and hopefully more LPGA tournaments. Giving up a free ride to college was a weighty decision but Noh is at peace, noting that at 16, she already had begun home-schooling to afford her more time and flexibility in chasing the dream. "This just feels like the right time and it's what I want to do," she says. "My goal is to be the No. 1 player in the world and I feel like turning pro will help me get there." Noh is technically a senior in high school so she does her schoolwork either in the morning or the evening and the rest of the day is devoted to golf, usually at her home course, Oakhurst Country Club in Clayton. Her dedication is impressive. A typical day consists of an hour of putting practice, an hour of hitting balls, 18 holes, then back to the range or practice green to work out any kinks. She also visits the gym at least five days a week. Always a strong ballstriker, Noh picked up another 20 yards this summer by tightening her backswing and rotating more aggressively at impact. A new putter also made her more confident and aggressive on the greens. Her (admittedly biased) swing coach Erik Stone recently told Golfweek, "In terms of physical ability and just hitting golf shots, she may be top 30 in the world right now. Between the lines, she's got everything." But Noh's growth spurt this summer had more to do with the metaphysical. After the non-stop travel she arrived at the Canadian W omen's Amateur feeling run- down and unmotivated. "I almost W/D'd because I was so tired," she says. "I was like, Wh y am I even here?" But she resolved to play one shot at a time and in the end she took one fewer than anybody else. "I learned a lot about perseverance that week," Noh says. Asked to identify the single-best shot she hit during her win streak Noh instead picks one entire hole, which actually featured two rather terrible swings: No. 14 (normally the par-4 5th) at Poppy Hills, when she was 2 up in a semifinal match versus Gina Kim of Chapel Hill, N.C. Noh snap-hooked her drive off the tee into a funky lie on the pine straw. With her second shot, "I was just trying to get it anywhere on the green but I kinda shanked it way right into a greenside bunker. My opponent was on the green with a good birdie chance so I was like, Oh well, I lost this hole." But walking to the green Noh gave herself a stern admonishment to dig deep and keep grinding. She played a lovely bunker shot to 8 feet and when Kim missed her birdie putt, Noh faced a putt on which the entire championship might hinge. "I just kind of willed that ball into the hole," she says. A couple holes later she closed out the match and the next day she was a national champion. And not long after that she was on a practice putting green in Canada and Lydia Ko was congratulating her on the victory. "That was kind of crazy," says Dr. Noh. "It felt great to be recognized like that." Here's betting that a wondrous summer is only the beginning. Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer for Golf Magazine and columnist at Golf.com. He lives in Carmel. 20 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG O N T H E B E A T Noh Doubt About Her BY ALAN SHIPNUCK 'In terms of physical ability and just hitting golf shots, she may be top 30 in the world right now.' — Erik Stone

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