19-year-old Yealimi Noh hopes to build on past PGA success as she takes on a difficult test
Yealimi Noh is only 19 years old, a young player who arrived to the LPGA with a stacked junior resume and great promise. She turned professional in 2019 after winning the 2018 Girls Junior PGA Championship, U.S. Girls Junior Amateur and Canadian Women’s Amateur.
She said Part II of her “double” rookie season of 2020-21 – which came on the heels of some solid play in 2020, a year that included a runner-up finish at the Cambia Portland Classic – has been a challenge. She is fighting her way through it.
Her poor play to start the season was compounded by a tough situation in which she was fined $10,000 for two bad times at the Kia Classic (her fine was more than twice what she made that week.). But slowly, steadily, her game seems to be coming around. She tied for 13th last week in Michigan and got off to a fast start at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday, carding an opening-round, 3-under 69. She made six birdies in the round.
“This year, my first full season, it's definitely been a lot tougher just in how I imagined it would start out, especially from last year just having a pretty good year, half year,” she said. “Then the beginning of this year it was really mentally … just mentally really tough for me, and I been trying to bounce back from that.”
Noh made a putter switch on Wednesday, still utilizing the arm-lock technique she began a year ago, but doing it with a shorter and lighter putter. On Thursday, she rolled the ball nicely. Whereas the arm-lock method of putting is gaining pretty fair traction on the PGA Tour (Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar all putt that way), it has been slow to gather momentum on the LPGA.
“I think last year I was the only one that used it,” she said. “I started last year, and then for me it was just kind of always my setup for putting, like kind of bending down was a little harder for me. I have longer arms too, so the arm-lock fit really well, and looks natural, too.
“Some people don't realize I'm using an arm-lock, but it fits really well for my proportions of my body.”
Noh has a nice history with events associated with the PGA of America. In 2014, not far down the road from AAC at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, she was part of a winning PGA Junior League team. At 16, she won the 43rd Girls Junior PGA Championship at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. She also was one of the first players named to the 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team that competed at Disneyland Paris ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup. What does Noh think of the role that PGA of America events have filled in helping her development through the years?
“It's huge in my career,” she said. “As a junior I was really fortunate to play the PGA Junior (League), which was like probably my first team event. It was really fun to win it. Actually, down the road here.
“Then the Junior PGA Championship was one of the biggest, I think all junior girls would think as the biggest tournament. So one of the biggest tournaments. It was really cool to win that one.”
A good performance at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA could go a long way as Noh continues to try to bolster her confidence. She still has an eye on making the U.S. Solheim team that will take on Europe in Toledo, Ohio, later this summer. A great finish will do wonders to erase her slow start to the season.
“I didn't start the year off that well like results-wise,” she said. “I just was really hard on myself, and then every tournament I went to just got tougher for me mentally, because, well, obviously results, but just getting like a ($10,000) fine, too. That definitely ruined my mood for sure, and I don't think I deserved it.
“It was just hard to come back from that mentally, watching my back and trying to do something that I don't normally do. And then just been hard for me to stay positive. I been really working on it.”
At Atlanta Athletic Club, Noh was off to a very good start.