On the surface, Jang Ha-na was carving out a successful career on the LPGA Tour at age 25, with four wins in the last two seasons and the No. 10 position in world rankings.
But all that glitters is clearly not gold, as far as she is concerned, which is why Jang has decided to rescind her LPGA membership and return to play on home soil starting this summer.
|In this Associated Press photo taken on March 4, 2017, Jang Ha-na reacts after a shot at the first hole during the third round of the HSBC Women's Champions tournament on the LPGA Tour at Sentosa Golf Club's Tanjong Courser in Singapore. (Yonhap)|
Jang announced the move to the Korea LPGA Tour through her agency on Monday. Then at a press conference in Seoul Tuesday, Jang further explained that she wanted to spend more time with her aging parents, saying she reached the decision after "asking myself hundreds and thousands of questions."
"There was a void that couldn't be filled even by all the victories," Jang said. "And I made this decision because I decided spending time with my family is more precious than becoming the best golfer in the world. I want to enjoy the rest of my golfing career with my parents and loved ones around me."
Jang earned her LPGA membership through the 2014 Q-School. She had three runner-up finishes and ranked 15th on the money list in her rookie year.
Jang then exploded in 2016 with three victories and added another victory in February this year.
Jang said she still felt hollow after wins, and that forced her to rethink her priorities.
"Once I left the golf course and found myself alone, I just felt so empty," she said. "I started to wonder why I was feeling that way, because I was playing golf to be happy after all."
She has been touring with her 65-year-old father, Jang Chang-ho, while her mother Kim Yeon-sook, 66, has stayed back in South Korea.
"I made up my mind after seeing my mother, who's close to 70, lead such a lonely life here," the golfer said. "I thought being the best in the world was my only goal. But from now on, I'll spend as much time with my mother as I can."
Jang said she feels as if she has "turned a corner" in her life and career and added, "I think it'd be difficult for me to go back (to the LPGA Tour)."
"People back in the United States scratched their heads, because I was exempt through 2019," Jang added. "I made this decision because both golf and my family are important."
Jang endured a trying stretch in 2016 after a bizarre off-field incident in March that year.
When Jang and fellow South Korean star Chun In-gee were traveling to Singapore for the HSBC Women's Champions, a bag belonging to Jang's father tumbled down an escalator and hit fellow Chun, who was forced to sit out the tournament with a back injury.
Jang actually won the tournament but angered Chun's famously loyal and enthusiastic fans with her exuberant celebration of the victory.
Conspiracy theories abounded as to the circumstances surrounding the incident, and Chun's supporters also criticized Jang for a lack of proper apology.
Chun ended up missing a month of action, and Jang herself sat out several weeks while dealing with health issues of her own. Her agency said Jang dealt with symptoms of insomnia and anemia, with bouts of blurred vision, dizziness and vomiting -- likely caused by the stress from the Singapore incident.
Jang admitted she had a tough time dealing with the aftermath of the incident but she's long past it.
"That incident is not the reason why I came back," Jang added.
"I've already talked to Chun In-gee about it quite a bit. I am here because I've found something more precious than golf."
Jang insisted while she is leaving the LPGA Tour behind, she isn't just giving up on her playing career.
"I still have my set of goals as a golfer," she said. "I'll try to do the best I can in Korea."
She has the full status on the KLPGA Tour through this season.
She has eight career wins here and won the money title and the Player of the Year honors in 2013.
"I've played well every time I've come over to Korea to play (during the LPGA career)," Jang said. "So there's a mix of anticipation and nervousness for me. There are five majors in Korea now. Only two of my eight victories here are majors, and I'd like to complete a grand slam here." (Yonhap)