[EDITORIALS]No more smoke-filled linksWhen the putt fell on the final hole to clinch his win, he did not jump up in ecstasy or pump his fist in the air with a primal scream. He just hugged his wife quietly and stood still for a few moments. Maybe he was weeping inside, having just realized that he was past the language and cultural barriers and, even more, the seemingly insurmountable wall of men's U.S. professional golf. It was a moment of victory for Korea's "Black Tank" three years after his debut on the U.S. tour.
Granted, major players of the class of Tiger Woods stayed out of the tournament. As if to show his disappointment in that fact, he outshone himself at every hole through the 17th in the final round, pulling away steadily from his challengers. K.J. Choi's nickname, "the Black Tank," comes from the curtness that reminds people of the LPGA player, Park Se-ri, and from his stocky physique broad shoulders and strong legs, the result of weight-lifting training. All that, together with a complexion a few shades darker than an average Asian, was behind the nickname.
Mr. Choi let it be known that his motivation for playing was not just money but to represent Korea. The Korean flag design on the backs of his shoes bears him out. His determination proved that a Korean could match others in the major leagues of golf and that after just three years, not a decade, of trying.
Mr. Choi's first win opened the way for participation with the superstars of the game in tournaments open only to PGA winners. And just as Park Se-ri has done for women, he will probably lead a corps of new Korean male golfers to the United States. To call this the opening of a new era for Korean male golfers is not an exaggeration.
He was greeted with "Congratulations" in Korean by an interviewer on U.S. television. The win casts a ray of brightness on Korea, allowing us to forget for the moment that numerous corrution scandals here often involve the game of golf. Superstars are not just born. Talent must be recognized and cultivated with patience and support. Now our perception of the game of golf must also change, so that those following in the footsteps of Choi Kyung-ju will have their chance in the limelight.
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