When Jay heard that the Bellflower municipal golf course was looking for someone to operate its coffee shop, Jay and Sue saw an opportunity to start over in a way that combined pleasure with business—although Sue admits that she "didn't even know how to boil an egg." To keep Pearl entertained as he and Sue worked, Jay cut down a putter and pointed her at the practice green. "A few days later she stopped putting," Jay says. "I asked her why. 'Just putting isn't fun,' she said." Jay cut down some more clubs, and his older daughter was soon at home on the range.
"Jay used to coach her from the golf course's restaurant," says Carl Gibboney, who has known the family since the Bellflower coffee-shop days and is now a regular at Chef's Kitchen, which the Sinns bought in 1984. "We'd be sitting at the counter, and he would look over our heads and through the service window." Jay would clap to get Pearl's attention and then use hand signals to tell her to keep a shoulder down or an elbow up.
"All of us thought Pearl's talent was a natural gift," says Virgil Hirsch, another Chefs Kitchen regular. "Then we saw Patti with the same swing and knew it had to be the coaching."
Jay's aim has been to meld the tempo and timing that, he says, typify the swings of Asian golfers and the power typical of U.S. golfers. Pearl is only 5'3", but when she's hitting the ball well, which is to say nearly always, she cracks her drives an eye-opening 230 yards.
But it is the athletic elegance of her swing, whether she's wielding a driver or a wedge, that makes other golfers pay attention. "Dad always stresses that what's important is not if you're first, second or third, not if you've shot 77, 73 or 70, but if you know what you've done in terms of how you played, how you hit the ball," Pearl says. "He stresses that hitting the ball right is most important."
"She has really good tempo," Vollstedt says. "She has a nice fluid swing. You don't need to know mechanics to know it looks good."
Golfers coming off the 9th hole at Bellflower often park on the wooden benches near the clubhouse and watch Pearl and Patti practice until they finish their buckets. One time years ago, before the trophies and the scholarship offers and the press clippings, a man gave Pearl a five-dollar bill and said, "I just want to watch you hit a bucket of balls." It may not be long before a lot more people will be paying to watch Pearl play.