BELLFLOWER — She stands out in a line of 4 p.m. hackers like a gem in gravel. Next to her, middle-aged men swing golf clubs mightily, sending balls on errant paths that end abruptly and kick up dust. But the girl's swing is pure grace. Her ball shoots out straight and becomes a speck against the sky.
A hacker stops to admire her.
She is at a driving range, this gem named Pearl, looking like the little girl next door, which, to the people who have watched her grow up here, she still is.
Every afternoon she carries her clubs across the street from her home to the Bellflower Golf and Tennis Center, her playground since she was 9.
Now, at 17, Pearl Sinn is a consistent mid-70s shooter and one of the top junior golfers in the country.
"Outstanding . . . talented . . . relentless . . . mature" are adjectives Tom Kelley, a pro at the Bellflower center, uses to describe her. "She dominates her age group," he says.
Already she has shown she can compete with the sport's biggest names. In March she led after the first round of the Ladies Professional Golf Assn.'s GNA Classic at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale. The only amateur in the 144-player tournament, she eventually finished 15th.
A casually dressed man puffing a cigarette approaches Pearl. He is her father, coach and caddy. He stands so close to her that he appears in danger of being struck by her club.
They look down in silence at dozens of white balls that have been spilled from a wire basket on ground where fresh blades of grass keep pushing up but never seem to make inroads on the bareness.
The man kicks a ball into place for her. He positions her body, nudging up her left shoulder, striving for the form he insists on.
She swings with the same solid results, the club finishing diagonally against her back. But the man detects something that is not quite right.
As they leave, Jay Sinn says to his daughter, "You check with me tomorrow."
In 1970, Jay Sinn was 31 years old and in real estate in South Korea. He had to spend considerable time conducting business over cocktails in restaurants. His wife, Sue, started worrying about his health and suggested they take up golf so he could be outdoors.
"I did pretty good at it," he said. "Later, I spent too much time on the course. I lost customers."
When the Sinns left Korea eight years ago, they gave away their clubs because, Sue said, "We didn't think we'd have time to play in United States. But somebody put my golf shoes in the baggage."
Pearl found them.
Early Interest in Game
Shortly after their arrival, the Sinns operated a coffee shop at the Bellflower driving range and par-3 course, and because Sue doesn't believe in baby sitters, Pearl was always around the course, putting in her mother's shoes.
Jay Sinn saw that she had a good putting stroke and decided to teach her the game--not that he was an expert.
"After work at the restaurant, he went home and studied golf books till 2 or 3 in the morning so he could teach her," Sue said.
It paid off quickly. When she was 10, Pearl shot a three-over-par 30.
Pearl, the No. 1 player on the Bellflower High School golf team, carries a camera and rushes up smiling to the practice green at Lakewood Country Club before a match with La Mirada High.
"I have to take pictures for the school paper," she says. She is wearing fuchsia shorts and a pink shirt that matches her bubble gum.
All of her teammates are boys.
"They love her, she loves them," says Coach Tom Sinay.
Bob Emmons, one of the top junior players in Southern California but No. 2 behind Pearl on the team, watches her walk down the first fairway, followed by a photographer whose camera will be aimed only at her. Already someone has shouted "great shot" at her. She collects admirers, it seems, as fast as she does trophies.
Teammates a Bit 'Jealous'
"We get a little jealous," Emmons says of all the attention she receives. "But it's a real pleasure to play with her, especially knowing in a few years she'll be on the pro tour."
Pearl and Emmons are in a foursome with Chris Sollom and Dan Mello of La Mirada.
The players say little as they trudge from hole to hole. After clubs stop clattering in their bags, the rippling of the wind is the only sound.
"We treat her as any other player," says Sollom as he walks to his ball. "She's great, for a girl. She shoots better than most guys. I didn't think she'd hit it as far as she does."
Her tee shots travel straight and 230 yards. Emmons and the other boys are always out farther than Pearl but usually they are in the rough.
When she shoots, the boys feign indifference, but they are watching. When it's their turn, she waves her black club with one hand as if snipping a few weeds with a sickle. She appears in deep thought, staring through the cool haze at the green, or perhaps far past it into her future.
Thoughts of Pro Tour
The pro tour, which she plans to join in four years, after college, is always on her mind.