USC star turning her dreams into reality


Jennifer Song dreams of playing in the Masters Tournament.

She insists it was just one of those extravagant dreams she had as a kid and, with some of the biggest names in women’s golf being turned away from Augusta National, it seems almost impossible today.

But what’s surprising isn’t the fact that Song might just have the ability to make this a reality; it’s the fact that she has any time to dream at all.

It’s 5:30 in the morning. Nothing is moving outside and, other than the yellow-jacket security staff, there are few signs of life around campus.

This is the time that Song’s alarm rings. She’s up before the birds, the sun and her classmates. The USC sophomore has to be at the course at 6:45 a.m., so she gives herself time to eat and gets in her car.

Golf has constantly been a driving force in Song’s life. It needs to be if she wants to get up most days at an hour many college students don’t even know exists. Don’t worry, she gets to sleep in on Tuesdays and Thursdays — until 8 a.m.

Such is the life of a soon-to-be professional golfer. After enjoying unparalleled success last year — when she became the second woman in history to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championships in the same year — Song decided she would turn pro at the conclusion of this season.

It’s a decision that had been in the making since her elementary school days in Ann Arbor, Mich. She would tag along with her dad to a driving range in a golfing dome. Often bored, restless and curious, she picked up the clubs and figured out how to swing them.

Her dad was so impressed with her swing that while she was in third grade, he entered her in two local golf tournaments “as a joke,” as Song puts it. Song would not only win both of those tournaments but did so with power and precision, winning the longest drive and closest to the pin competitions as well.

Those are two of her tools she refines every morning at the course. But after spending all morning on the links, Song has to hurry back to campus for class from noon-6 p.m. She’s constantly moving from golfer to student. It’s tiring, but she gets through it with the same disciplined and focused demeanor she displays on the fairway.

Rarely does she even have time to smile. Rules officials have noticed. When accepting the trophy for her win at the US Women’s Amateur, the officials finally caught a glimpse of that grin.

“One rules official came up to me and said it was great to see me smile because they said I had a poker face out there,” Song said. “They saw no facial expressions from me out on the course.”

Song was so focused on winning, she forgot about everything else around her. She’s been winning ever since those tournaments in Michigan. After moving to Korea in fourth grade, Song played everything, from basketball to soccer to volleyball, and beat all her challengers. In middle school, she was recruited to play on the high school varsity basketball squad, but her headmaster wouldn’t allow it.

These challengers weren’t limited to girls either.

“I beat all the other guys in middle school,” Song said. “My brother didn’t like playing sports with me because I was better than him when I was growing up and he didn’t want to lose to a girl.”

Perhaps this is where the Masters dream was born.

But Song’s passion laid in the middle of the fairway. She played golf straight through high school and during her first two years at USC. She’s played a round with Cristie Kerr, and Lorena Ochoa actually asked Song if she could eat lunch with her. For those of you keeping score, that’s a total of eight LPGA major top 10’s in the last two years at one table.

That number could soon be 11. Because of her success, Song has been invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major, in April.

Although she’s “really psyched” to play with the best players in the world, there’s another aspect of the tournament that speaks to the fact that Song is still a teenager at heart.

“I hear they have a lot of crackers and junk food there,” Song said. “I’m still a little kid because I get excited for those kinds of things.”

There are very few moments in Song’s day that allow her to be a kid. Those come at about 10:30 p.m., after class, working out, showering, tutoring and dinner — usually with her teammate and roommate Inah Park at a local Korean place. Before sitting down to study, she finally gets to be a normal college student and procrastinate by playing Solitaire, checking Facebook or satisfying her addiction to movies. Finally, at 1:30 a.m., Song gets to go to sleep. She’ll be up again in four hours, hustling through the day. She’ll barely have time to dream, but she has so much time to turn those dreams into realities.

“Spittin’ Sports” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Kenny at klegan23@gmail.com.