Lee wins golf gold, but Akama makes Cook Islands proud
Lee Soyoung (KOR) and Memory Akama (COK) finished at opposite ends of the leaderboard in the women's golf tournament at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics Games – but both left the course beaming with pride.
Gold medallist Lee hails from the Republic of Korea, a powerhouse of the women's game, and she has played on the LPGA Tour and the Ladies' European Tour this year.
She won the competition thanks to rounds of 69, 68 and 65 for a 14-under-par total of 202 at the Zhongshan International Golf Club.
Akama, meanwhile, carded 88, 94 and 99 for a 65-over-par total that ensured she finished in last place. But given her sporting circumstances back home in the Cook Islands, the result is no huge surprise. "I play at Rarotonga Golf Club, and it has nine holes," said 17-year-old Akama. "I have to play them twice to do 18, and the holes are really short. It can get a bit boring playing the same ones over and over, so when I saw the club here, I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm getting on that course.'"
The Cook Islands’ Memory Akama relished her Olympic experience in Nanjing
Akama's journey to the Nanjing 2014 Games began when her dad persuaded her to try her hand at the sport. "He wanted me to play golf because he did," she said. "I gave it a try and became addicted, but it was so frustrating at first. It's quite unusual to play golf on the Cook Islands, though. All my friends are on Facebook and they can't believe I'm here at the Olympics for golf. The people at the club are tweeting me, asking for updates all the time."
The end result was not what Akama had hoped for, but she relished her experience in Nanjing as golf returned to the Olympic programme. "I'm so proud of myself being a Cook Islands representative," she said. "It's an honour representing my country, [but] my score could have been better - I've learnt not to give up."
Like Akama, Lee started golf after encouragement from her father, and at the age of 10 she switched from playing for fun to homing in on a career in the game. "My dad and me realised I could be a golfer," she said. "I put in a lot of time and effort to be a professional."