STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES of NYC
by Andrea Doddato
During one of my trips out on the LPGA early last season, Song-Hee Kim introduced me to one of her best friends on Tour, Na Yeon Choi. Na Yeon was moving to Orlando and was in search of a golf fitness trainer. At first glance this thin, shy, young golfer resembled the cute, animated Asian cartoon characters I grew up watching on Saturday mornings. But at closer look I found lurking a very determined little fighter.
Sometimes an athlete comes to you with such natural ability that everything seems to come easily, while others have to work for it. The latter is applicable to Na Yeon, but the difference is she doesn't only apply this drive to golf but to every aspect of her life. The more I learned about this tenacious little player the more I marveled at her vigor.
One morning while I was catching a ride to the tournament course she popped a CD into the rental car and began to sing along with her favorite Korean songs. My mouth dropped open by what came out. I turned to her astonished and gushed that she could be a professional singer as well! She laughed at me and explained that when she was young all of her friends made fun of her at Karaoke because she was such a horrible singer. Determined to not to be picked on she began practicing everytime she was alone until she wasn't the butt of anymore jokes.
Na Yeon and I began to work in the gym on upper body and core strength as well as increasing rotation within her torso. She had a few muscular imbalances that created continuous faults within her swing, so our goal was to tackle these first before we could add any more distance to her drives. Because of a slight scoliosis in her back she lacked full range of motion within the thoracic part of her spine. We incorporated foam roller techniques as well as stretching and rotational exercises until flexibility was restored.
With her body becoming strong and flexible she set out to conquer her ultimate goal of winning on the LPGA Tour. She had found early success and fame with winning multiple times in Korea and finished runner up for "Rookie of the Year" the season prior to Yani Tseng. But it seemed that the more she pressed for a win, the more discouraged she became. Her game was there, her fitness was there but what she lacked was confidence and a strong mental approach. Her swing coach Robin Symes and I would aid where we could but both agreed in seeking the professional tutelage of Vision 54. With all three elements intact Na Yeon began to win, which she did twice in 2009.
She continued to work extremely hard during the off-season before the 2010 season not only on her game but in learning the English language as well. She hired a private tutor with the self assurance that she will be standing in the winner's circle addressing the media many, many more times. She is right now a dominant force on the LPGA Tour and on her way to having the best season of her career at the ripe old age of 21!
If there is one thing that I have learned by working and watching this young perfectionist, it is that she may be slight and somewhat reserved to the common onlooker but behind those large, childlike eyes creeps a fierce little Tiger.
Two exercises Na Yeon does to help with torso rotation:
Seated cable/band rotation
*Na Yeon does an advanced version of this exercise with her outside leg raised forcing her to increase the stabilization of her pelvis and core.
Begin by sitting on a stability ball with your legs shoulder width apart. Keep back and arms straight as you pull the band rotationally across your body. (it is ok to let the outside elbow fold) The hips should not sway but rotate slightly as well through the exercise. Practice using full range of motion without compromising form.
Perform 15-20 reps then change sides
Split stance cable/band twisting row
Begin by using opposite hand to the opposite foot that is forward. Keep hips facing forward as you fully twist your upper body. Pull one elbow behind your body as you "punch" your other arm forward. Do not round upper body or head, arms should follow the path of the cable/band and keep hips locked down in order to rotate only from your thoracic spine.
Perform 15-20 reps then change sides
Andrea Doddato is a golf fitness professional that works with many LPGA players. She writes for several golf publications and has been seen on ESPN and The Golf Channel. She can be contacted through www.shapeandsport.com.