Euna Han is on the road to achieving her dream of becoming a professional golfer.
The 17-year-old from Port Coquitlam has been barnstorming across the United States and Canada with her mom in the family Kia for much of the past five years. Between stops to play tournaments and work on her game in warmer climes, Han still managed to graduate early from Coquitlam’s Gleneagle secondary by taking many of her courses online.
But that seemingly fast journey included a few speed bumps along the way.
The biggest, Han said, was a gastrointestinal disorder that dogged her for a stretch after she ate something at a tournament in Las Vegas. Working through that humbled her, she said, toughened her resolve to get through anything on the golf course.
“Ultimately, it made me a better player,” she told The Tri-City News over the phone from the ChampionsGate Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., where she was honing her putting, pitching and chipping prior to large-scale closures due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Han said she embraced golf after a family friend introduced her to the sport when she was seven. Although she played other team and individual sports, including soccer and taekwondo, she loved the way she could measure her improvement on the golf course from week to week. Within a year, she was winning tournaments in her age group and, by the time she was 11, she was travelling across Canada to compete.
“I started by really loving the competition,” Han said. “I always want to win and get better.”
When she was 12, Han’s roadshow headed south. She said the decision to go to the U.S. to improve her game came with sacrifices, like missing her friends.
“I’ve never eaten lunch at school,” she said. “When I try to hang out with my school friends, I feel the gap between us.”
Instead, Han said, she has forged friendships at the golf course, visiting sites in the cities where tournaments are located with her new acquaintances. In her downtime between competitive rounds and working with her Korea-based coach, she reads, takes photos and makes videos for her social media feed.
The focus is paying dividends. Han is currently ranked 814 amongst the world’s top amateur women golfers. Last year, she finished third at the British Columbia amateur championships and seventh at the Canadian junior girls' championship.
Last weekend, Han was supposed to be one of 48 top young women golfers from around the world competing at the ANA Junior Inspiration at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The event is usually a prelude to the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration tournament that is held the week following, with the winner of the junior event earning an exemption to play with the pros. Both events have been postponed because of the pandemic. The LPGA said in a statement it intends to reschedule them for later in the year.
Han said the magnitude of such an opportunity doesn’t faze her.
“Every tournament is big and meaningful,” she said. “You have to try to be the same at every tournament. I just try to do my own thing.”