Phan finds game

Michaela Phan is only 8 years old, but already she appeared on her way to becoming highly skilled in taekwondo.

The Newport Coast resident is a black belt and she won a national championship in the 8-and-under division at the American Taekwondo United tournament.

But Phan has found a new game, and it has nothing to do with martial arts. She stopped kicking and she's now swinging, and pretty good too.

Phan has taken up golf and has quickly found success for her age. For the second straight year, she'll compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, billed as the largest and most prestigious world annual junior golf event.

Phan begins play today in Pinehurst, N.C. She qualified for the event by scoring well during tournaments she played locally.

She averages two-over on a par-36 nine-hole round. She'll be playing 18 holes each of the three days this week. She's so new to the game, she said she really doesn't have an average for 18 holes.

"I feel excited," she said. "I want to do my best and have fun."

Though taekwondo and golf are entirely different, Phan said she has been able to use what she learned from martial arts and carry it out onto the course.

She discovered that she improved in taekwondo through hard work and practice. She applies the same mentality to golf.

She usually practices every day, working on different parts of her game at Oak Creek Country Club in Irvine.

She still trains in taekwondo, but she has pulled back on the intensity, instead choosing to focus more on golf.

Phan found a love for the game while tagging along with her older brother Michael, 13, who plays golf. Phan is the youngest of four. Monica, 17, the oldest, also plays golf.

Michael is really into the game and has played in out-of-state tournaments, said Kimberly Tran, Phan's mother.

"We started her a little bit late," said Tran, who's a dentist in the area. "She would tag along [with Michael] and she liked it. She got into it more and more. She's been playing for two years now."

For the past two years, Michaela has been going through several changes, including the switch in concentration from taekwondo to golf.

Michaela, like two of her siblings, Jennifer, 15, and Michael, has been home-schooled. She took a year off from Newport Coast Elementary to try home schooling. But she misses her friends, Tran said.

Michaela is planning to return to Newport Coast Elementary in the fall. When she does, she'll have plenty to talk about when people ask about her summer. She'll most likely tell them about her golf experience in Pinehurst.

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