Fri, Dec 09, 2011 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Yani Tseng has conquered golf; now for the US

TOUGH TASK:The Taiwanese golf sensation may be a superstar at home and in Asia, but she still has to crack the US market — difficult for an Asian sportswoman to achieve


Tseng may be in the vanguard of a new world order, but as long as Madison Avenue is in New York, she will polish her English, wiggle into form-fitting outfits and do her best to woo US advertisers.

“We know Yani has a couple of strikes against her in America,” Tseng’s adviser, Ernie Huang, said.

“One, she is a woman, and second, she is Asian. It does not diminish her desire to be a sports icon and in order to accomplish that, she still needs to embrace Western society,” he said.

“We have been pretty patient. We don’t care how long it takes. We’re like that old Smith Barney commercial. We want to make money the old-fashioned way. We want to earn it,” he added.

Tseng is often compared to Sorenstam, a former No. 1 player with a powerful game. Temperamentally, she is more like Shaquille O’Neal, the playful former NBA superstar.

Like O’Neal, who invited reporters to his retirement party, Tseng opened her Orlando home to members of the golf media before the first round of the season-ending CME Group Titleholders last month at Grand Cypress Resort. Her caddie, Jason Hamilton, grilled steaks, and his fiancee, Katy Mullin, made appetizers.

Dressed like Harry Potter in a black cape and black-rimmed glasses, Tseng delivered a welcome speech to her guests.

At 18, Tseng moved with her mother to the Southern California desert town of Beaumont to work on her game. She had announced herself three years earlier with a victory over Michelle Wie in the final of the 2004 US Women’s Amateur Public Links.

Tseng turned pro in 2007 and earned her LPGA playing privileges for the 2008 season, when she won her first major, at the LPGA Championship, and rookie of the year honors. She has won 23 worldwide titles in her career, 12 on the LPGA tour.

On the course, Tseng is a beguiling mix of fire and nice; she walks with her shoulders forward, but her smile takes the edge off her aggression.

She dresses in slacks or shorts and would sooner hit out of a poison ivy patch than wear a skirt to play.

Tseng is the Arnold Palmer of women’s golf, increasing the sport’s visibility with her genial nature and go-for-broke playing style.

“The young golfers are increasing because of Yani,” Julie Wang (王麗珠), a Taiwanese journalist, said in an e-mail.

Tseng drew more fans at the LPGA Taiwan Championship in October than Woods did at the 1999 Johnnie Walker Classic in Taiwan.

“We had 60,000 people in four days come, 20,000 fans in the final round,” Wang said. “We never had a sight like that before.”

Wang, who has written a biography of Tseng, said Tseng last year was voted the fourth most influential figure in Taiwan in a TV poll.

Taiwan has had other star athletes: Pitcher Wang Chien-ming (王建民), who played last season for the Washington Nationals; Chi Cheng (紀政), the 1968 Olympic bronze medalist in the women’s 80m hurdles; and the golfer TC Chen (陳志忠), who led after the first three rounds of the 1985 US Open before finishing second.

“Those stars are old now, we need new blood,” Wang said.

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