JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – She’s the youngest player in the field, at 19, and she just shot her career-best score in the majors: 69.
What clicked for American Yealimi Noh on Thursday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship?
“I switched putters, like, yesterday,” Noh said after her round.
Noh, who uses the armlock method, said that her old putter felt “a little too long and a little too heavy,” and decided Wednesday that it was time to change. Her first-round 69 left her two off the clubhouse lead of Lizette Salas, who opened with a bogey-free 67.
Noh’s 2020 rookie year was impressive. She had two top-5 finishes, six finishes in the top 30, and missed only one cut in 16 events during the COVID-19-shortened season.
This year has been a little different. She’s only missed one cut but has finished outside the top 30 five times in eight starts. Noh also got fined $10,000 for slow play at the Kia Classic, where she tied for 61st. She previously received a pace-of-play fine at the Gainbridge LPGA in 2020, which doubled the amount of her penalty at the Kia. "I can't appeal, because it's obviously my fault," Noh said following the incident. "A couple rookies got fines. Like OK, it's a heads-up for us rookies to catch up or whatever."
Ever since, it’s been hard for Noh to bounce back.
“The beginning of this year was definitely mentally really tough,” she said. “The fine was really hard for me because I don’t think I deserved it. It was really hard to come back mentally for me, always watching my back and trying to do something that I don’t normally do.”
Like many players who have high expectations, continuous setbacks are confusing, frustrating and difficult to process – especially for a player like Noh, who had a sensational amateur career before turning professional, winning the Girls’ Junior PGA Championship, the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and the Women’s Canadian Amateur, all in 2018. She turned pro a few months later.
“Every tournament got harder results-wise, and I was really hard on myself,” she said.
Noh isn’t the first player to open up about her mental battles. Nelly Korda, Matthew Wolff and Bubba Watson are just some of the players in the past week who have shared the struggles they’ve faced. The 19-year-old Noh is grateful for her support system to help her overcome the setbacks she’s faced.
“There’s so many good people around me,” she said. “I have a trainer and mental coach and just trying to find the positive things out of everything. ... This week I got a really long talk from my trainer and mental coach. Just trying to be more positive and waiting for my time to come.”