Photo - Asian Tour
YANG RETURNS HOME FOR BALLANTINE’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Jeju Island, Korea: Korea’s golfing icon Y.E Yang will make an emotional homecoming when he tees up at the Ballantine’s Championship this week.
Born and raised on the picturesque island of Jeju, this is the first time that Yang will be playing in front of his family and friends since his PGA Championship triumph which propelled him into global spotlight last year.
As Asia’s first Major winner, Yang knows that expectations of him will be high when he tees off at the €2.2 million (approximately US$2.9 million) showpiece that is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and the Korea PGA.
“I’m a bit nervous, since in 2008 I didn't really perform well in front of my friends and family. I guess there’ll be a bit more people rooting for me this time, and my main goal is to leave an impression with them, the sponsors who have invested so much on me, and ultimately put up a good show worthy of a Major winner,” said Yang who finished in tied-43rd at the inaugural event in 2008.
“I think when I first played the Ballantine's Championship two years ago, I did not have any wins on the PGA Tour and also, I didn't have as much experience as I do right now. However, two years have since passed and I’ve become a better player. Hopefully things will be different this year,” added the Asian Tour honorary member.
Yang whose full name is Yang Yong-eun, has come a long way from his humble beginnings where he picked up golf at the age of 19 and honed his game by watching countless hours of instructional videos by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo.
Since his history-making win at Hazeltine last August, the Korean followed up that triumph with an impressive performance at the Masters, where he finished joint eighth and marked a welcome return to the winner’s circle with a two-shot victory in China last weekend.
“I wanted to win a tournament before I came to Jeju and I was able to do so. So it’s with a very joyous heart that I return to my hometown of Jeju Island,” said Yang who will welcome a new member into his family following his sister’s wedding last week.
“I wasn't able to attend my sister's wedding because I was playing golf, but I heard that the wedding went very well. So I think for me and for my family right now, a lot of good things are happening,” added the 38-year-old.
Meanwhile three-time PGA Tour winner Anthony Kim returns to his ancestral homeland ready to leave an impression with his Korean fans again.
“I'm very excited and honoured to be here in Korea, and I've been looking forward to coming back here to this tournament for a long time. I'm so excited to see some Korean faces in the gallery and hopefully I can make them all proud,” said Kim.
The American who resides in Dallas, Texas also believes that he is now ready to venture beyond the United States and stamp his mark as a global player
“I want to play all over the world, and I think it's important for young players like myself and others to grow the game wherever we can,” said the American.
The Korean-American, born in California to Korean parents who immigrated to the United States has been enjoying a stellar season so far with his third PGA Tour victory earlier this month followed by a third place finish at the Masters.
“My parents have always told me to keep my head up and that I can do it. It sounds so cliché, but it means a lot when the people around you care so much and want the best for you,” said Kim who first captured the world’s imagination in 2008 when he enjoyed a sensational season on the PGA Tour by claiming two victories and playing a leading role in the victorious United States Ryder Cup team that year.
The third edition of the Ballantine’s Championship will played at the Pinx Golf Club and will be headlined by other marquee players that include three-time Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa, who recently won back-to-back titles on the PGA Tour, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and defending champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.