At age 20, Song is an LPGA vet
By bill kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By bill kwon
KAPOLEI — Aree and Naree Song are almost inseparable, even when one of them isn't playing in a tournament.
In this case, the Fields Open in Hawai'i, there was Aree after her round yesterday, still working on her swing on the Ko Olina practice range while twin sister Naree watched intently.
They do everything together, given the opportunity.
"We have a lot of fun together and we're very lucky to have each other," Aree said. "When we're out here, we help each other out with our swing or our game. We play practice rounds together."
Both are in their second year at Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul, which they attend during the offseason. Both are majoring in psychology and learning Korean, their father's native language, but not one in which they're fluent.
"No, not learning it to psych each other out," said Aree, adding that Naree can sometimes be bossy because she's nine minutes older.
Taking the same courses has its advantages, according to Aree.
"It makes studying easier," she said. "We take turns doing the homework."
With all the South Koreans on the LPGA Tour — there are 21 in this week's Fields Open, including leader Seon Hwa Lee — it's a smart move for the future.
The Song sisters aren't exactly Seoul sisters. They were born in Bangkok, Thailand. Their mother is Chinese-Thai.
Since moving to America when they were 11, Aree and Naree enjoyed remarkable junior golf careers, combining for 23 national tournament victories.
Aree still holds the record as the youngest U.S. Girls' Junior champion when she won in 1999 at 13, the age when she played her first LPGA event, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and tied for 10th.
Naree, who's on the Futures Tour, made it a sister act in the LPGA's first major for four consecutive years.
If you're not familiar with their name or exploits from when they were youngsters, it's no surprise. They were then known as Aree and Naree Wongluekiet, taking their mother's family name. They changed it to Song five years ago, as did older brother Chan, who starred at Georgia Tech and now plays on the Asian Tour.
"It's a lot easier," Aree said. "People couldn't pronounce our last name. It made it difficult on the tee."
Headline writers thank them, too.
As well as those manning the Fields Open leaderboard, which finds Song in a four-way tie for fifth at 8-under 136 going into today's final round.
"I didn't feel like I hit it well the last two days, but I scored well," said Aree, whose final shot of the day was her best — a pitch-in at 18 from 30 yards for a birdie and a round of 67.
Her wedge also led to birdies on all four par-5 holes, three of them with putts inside four feet.
Although she won't be 20 until May 1, Aree already feels like she's been around awhile even though she's just beginning her third year on the tour. She received an age exemption to join the tour at 17 after making it through qualifying school.
"In a way, I do feel like a veteran because I played in my first tour event at 13," Aree said. "It's so great. I'm just living a dream out here. I always wanted to be a professional golfer. It's the only thing I really enjoy doing, the only thing I can see myself doing."
Any advice for this year's tour 17-year-old, Morgan Pressel?
"What I learned is that it's a really long road. It's more like a marathon and not a sprint. So you have to enjoy the little things that come with being on tour and not to get caught up with the golf aspect of it only," she said.