By Frank E. Miller
Yani Tseng sits atop Women’s World Golf Rankings (Rolex Rankings) board. This post will profile the Taiwanese sensation through the early stages of her rise to fame.
(Jonathan Ferry, Getty Images)
According to Focus Taiwan News Channel, the Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs promotes more certification of “Made in Taiwan” products in the Southeastern nation. Well, Yani Tseng, perhaps the country’s greatest athlete, is just one product they’ll never get to stamp.
The 23-year-old holds a place in history as the youngest player ever (male or female) to win five major championships. She currently ranks as the number one player in women’s golf, a position impressively maintained since 2011. However, unlike every other success story you’ve heard, Tseng faced little to no adversity on her ascension to the top. In 2002, she swung her way on to the scene by force and dominated like no other before her.
Nearly six months after her 13th birthday, Tseng won the 13-14 age division of the 2002 Callaway Junior World Golf Championship in San Diego, California. The same crown (better yet, tiara) she hoisted as a junior champion once belonged to PGA legends Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson as juniors. Tseng returned in 2004 as a 15-year-old to compete for the 15-17 title; however, she came up short placing second to Mari Chun. Yet, her loss didn’t keep her down for long. She soon bounced back in dramatic fashion against another rising star later that year.
The 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links pitted Tseng against the formidable Michelle Wie in the tournament’s final round. On paper, she proved Tseng’s biggest challenge yet. Wie made national headlines as the youngest player to ever make a cut in a LGPA major tournament at 13. Yet more importantly, Wie won Public Links the year before. The title made her the youngest player (male or female) to ever win the tournament at 13. Yet, apparently those statistics didn’t rattle Tseng. She defeated Wie by one hole for the perhaps the biggest win of her young career.
Tseng called the No. 12 hole the catalyst of the match: “when Michelle bogeyed that hole, and then I birdied on the 13th hole 14th, that’s when I felt I had a chance.” However, Tseng felt much more than a chance. Stardom shined it’s bright face in her direction on hole No. 13.
Though Tseng ended the 2005 Public Links tournament with a semi-final finish, she moved on to win the North and South Women’s Amateur Golf Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina later that year. She credits arguably the greatest female golfer ever, Annika Sörenstam, as the driving force behind her inspiration as a golfer.
“Annika was my big superstar and I think because of her when I was young I told myself that one day I want to play with her,” Tseng told Charlie Rose in an April 2012 interview. In 2009 Tseng bought Sörenstam’s home in Orlando, Florida which she calls ”just incredible.” However, in addition to her home, Sörenstam provided Tseng with a much different type of foundation.
“Annika was telling me you always need to have a goal,” Tseng explained to Rose with sincerity. “I think that’s one thing everybody should have. For me I’m on top but I always have a small goal, long term goal, and short term goal that gives me a lot of motivation to improve myself.” By just surveying Tseng’s success, the impact of Sörenstam’s advice seemingly surpassed that of any home. In fact, her advice exceeded every slot on the Rolex Rankings board and apparently stopped at one.