Former world number one Ji-Yai Shin has returned to Royal Canberra Golf Club this week, to compete in the AgtewAGL Canberra Classic, five years after winning the Women’s Australian Open at the same venue.
The South Korean beat Yani Tseng by two shots in February 2013, after being tied for the overnight lead with teenage star Lydia Ko, to claim one of her 49 professional victories earned over a 12-year career.
The two-time Major champion now plays on the Japanese LPGA Tour, where she won twice last year and finished fifth on the order of merit, despite having missed the first 10 tournaments due to a severely debilitating virus.
She is back in Canberra with her physical trainer Richard Nizielski, the former Australian Olympic ski skater, with whom she has just returned from an intensive three-week training camp in Thailand, where she worked out twice a day and played a lot of golf.
Ahead of her 30th birthday in April, she has decided that she needs to put in extra effort to compete with the young teenagers on tour and has gained 2.2% of body muscle mass over the last few weeks, for which she is grateful to Nizielski.
After warming up on the driving range on Wednesday morning, she said: “My body feels ready to go now so I’m looking forward to the next few days. I’m really happy to be back. I won here in 2013, which was already five years ago, but it feels like last year. I’m pretty comfy here and the course doesn’t look like it has changed too much. I hear it has, so I’m looking forward to playing on the new golf course.”
When asked if she thought she could add a 50th professional title to her resume this week, she said: “I hope so, yes! This is why I’m here and I work hard, so I will do my best!”
As well as Richard Nizielski being on her team, Shin is rekindling her successful working partnership with caddie Dean Herden, (above, far left) who was by her side six years ago at the height of her powers, when she sat atop the world rankings for 25 weeks in 2010 and early 2011. Herden has recently been caddying for Jin-Young Ko.
Herden grew up playing at Royal Canberra as a boy, and even remembers playing in the E.S.P. Open at Royal Canberra, when Greg Norman shot a course record 62 (-10) in the first round. Although he might not have joined the winner’s circle that week, he could be up on the podium in a different capacity this weekend.