Photo - Asian Tour
KOREANS MAKE PRESENCE FELT IN BRITISH OPEN
St Andrews: Move over girls, the Korean men are ready to make up for lost ground on the world’s golfing fairways.
After playing second fiddle to the fairer sex, there are clear signs now that the Korean men are coming through the ranks in good number, and with top quality to match.
This week, there are eight Koreans in the British Open which celebrates its 150th anniversary at St Andrews on Thursday. Coincidently, they have two more players in the star-studded field than Scotland, the country which gave birth to the Royal and Ancient game.
K.J. Choi, an Asian Tour honorary member, is delighted to see a strong Korean presence, especially when he is regarded as the trailblazer who set the path for his compatriots to emulate.
“This is evidence to how far golf in Korea has developed and become better, talent wise,” said Choi, the first Asian Tour graduate to hit it big in America with seven victories on the US PGA Tour.
“In a tournament like this, and also with the fact that it’s in Scotland, you are not going to get into the field automatically. You have to compete for a place here. The fact that there are eight Koreans here proves the talent level has drastically gone up and they can stand up to any player in the world and come out as winners.”
With history-maker Y.E. Yang, also an Asian Tour honorary member, helping to raise the bar even higher after becoming Asia’s first male Major champion last August, a new breed of Koreans are sparkling on various stages.
Noh Seung-yul, 19, leads the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit after defeating Choi in the Maybank Malaysian Open in March while Kim Kyung-tae, who is four years older, has won once.
Jin Jeong, 20, and the 18-year-old An Byeong-hun are holders of the two most prized amateur titles in the world, the British Amateur Championship and US Amateur Championship, which earned them starts in this week’s field. A third amateur, Eric Chun qualified from the International Final Qualifying – Asia while the other Korean is Park Jae-bum, who qualified by finishing third in the Mizuno Open in Japan.
Choi has for long believed that to be the best, you’ve got to play with the best and he feels that the motto is working well for the youngsters.
Choi plied his trade on the Asian Tour during the 1990s before breaking through onto the world stage with Yang following suit several years later in the same manner. Charlie Wi, a seven-time winner in Asia, has also established himself on the PGA Tour.
“The minds are changing amongst male golfers in Korea,” said Choi.
“They know that in order to get better and to be amongst the best, you have to play amongst the best overseas. Once they do that, they gain more experience and they know what they need to do.
“Their talent level is becoming greater and the more success they have, we’ll see more players going international and making a name for themselves.”