Hannah Yun: The Youngest Touring Pro in the U.S.

By: Dave Andrews

Hannah Yun celebrated her 17th birthday on Monday. On Friday the Bradenton, Fla., native will be competing in her first-ever event as a professional golfer, making her the youngest pro on any tour in the United States. The long-hitting young player on the Futures Tour will tee it up on Friday at the Louisiana Pelican Classic in Lafayette, La. It is the third stop of 17 events on the Futures Tour's 2009 schedule. Yun played as an amateur in the first two events of the season.

Last fall, Yun applied for and was granted a special exemption by the Futures Tour to play professionally as soon as she reached her 17th birthday. Generally, players are not allowed to turn pro unless they would turn 18 in the same calendar year in which they're playing. The same rule applies to players on the LPGA.

If Yun plays well enough this season to earn an automatic entry into the LPGA Q School in December, she will have to apply to the LPGA for a special exemption. If Yun finishes in the top five on the Futures' money list, she would automatically earn LPGA membership for 2010. That would have her starting the LPGA season as a 17-year-old.

The talented teenager (featured in previous articles on www.cybergolf.com) made headlines last October when she left the University of Florida women's golf team at the beginning of her sophomore season. She decided to withdraw from Florida because she believed that playing in a college golf program hindered the development of her game. In the spring of 2008, as a 15-year-old freshman, Yun was named the team's most valuable player and had also been selected to the All-SEC first team.

Last summer Yun played as an amateur in 11 events on the Futures schedule. Competing at 16, she finished the season with a 74.38 stroke average that ranked her 57th on the tour. After leaving college last fall, she had a second- and third-place finish in two events on the Suncoast Ladies Series mini tour in Florida. Still playing as an amateur, she fired final scores of 2-under and 5-under par in those two events.

Since leaving college, Yun returned to Bradenton to work with her swing instructor, David Whelan. Whelan is the director of the IMG/David Leadbetter golf academy where she had spent four years before entering college. Whelan is also the principal instructor for Paula Creamer, who also opted against college golf and began her LPGA career at age 18. Vicky Hurst, the leading money winner on the Futures Tour last year, also moved directly to the LPGA at 18.

Yun's parents have supported her decisions to leave college and turn professional. They travel with her to all the Futures events and have shared caddying duties. Her father, Changsu, is the owner of a computer software company. He moved his family and his company's headquarters from California to Florida five years ago so Hannah could attend the Leadbetter Academy. The family is together this week in Louisiana, celebrating her 17th birthday and the start of her professional career.

Hannah Yun's goal this season is to finish in the top five on the money list. Having played the first two events of the season as an amateur, she will have only 15 events left to achieve that mark. If Yun reaches it, she would become one of the youngest ever to compete on the LPGA.

Golf fans interested in learning more about Yun and other players on the Futures Tour can visit http://duramedfuturestour.com.

Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. He's also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour. His home course in Concord, N.H., is annually the site of one of the tour's events. The inspiration for Dave's 2007 novel, "Pops and Sunshine," came from meeting many of the young aspiring women golfers on that tour. Each of them has a passion, dedication and determination that he finds remarkable. His novel is a fictionalization of the dream that these young women share. To order Dave's book, visit http://popsandsunshine.com.