[SPORTS VIEW]To get big golf stars here, fatten purses

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[SPORTS VIEW]To get big golf stars here, fatten purses

I am not a good golfer but I like the sport because it's a good way to vent. When you're stressed, what's better than whacking something 250 yards? If you have someone in mind you want to whip -- maybe your boss -- he golf ball works well enough as a substitute. Take a swing -- and feel good about it.

Yes, golf is an emotional game. My friend Hide, a Japanese man, attacks the ground and the air around him with his titanium driver in true Samurai fashion whenever his drives don't go where he wants them to go. What really heats up the emotions and adds zest to the competition is gambling. Just the wager of a round of beers or dinner can make a game seem like a do-or-die scenario. Then psychological warfare at its best is displayed. You'll do anything to unsettle your opponent. The most sadistic thing you can do is give him an understanding grin and pat on the back after a bad shot.

Considering how prizes motivate weekend golfers, imagine how it raises the level of the game at the professional level. Unfortunately, the organizers of Korea's professional golf tournaments have yet to grasp how important a big purse is.

The last major tournament on the peninsula this year, at Iksan in North Jeolla province, ended Saturday. Its purse: 200 million won ($165,000). All in all, 12 tournaments were held this year, each having a different winner. The Samsung Championship, played at Phoenix Park in Gangwon province, offered the most prize money, at 550 million won ($450,000). Compared with the kind of money the U.S. tournaments shower on their winners, this is just too small to attract any major pros such as Tiger Woods. Players of that caliber would only come to Korea with a guarantee that they could earn what they're accustomed to. Even then, their schedule has to be able to accommodate the event.

By contrast, the purse for this year's PGA Championship was $5.2 million. The winner took home $936,000. Naturally, everyone who was anyone was teeing off. Indeed, for the most part, the same elite players make regular appearances at the same tournaments held in the United States and Europe.

Meanwhile in Korea's tournaments, the only competitors are those who have not gained their PGA tour cards. Without raising the incentives for golfers to enter tournaments in Korea, the country will remain a backwater of the golfing world. Fortunately, as an official at the Korea Professional Golf Association hinted, there are talks of raising the prize money next year. I hope it's enough to lure some talented sharks. It raises the level of the game and gives the fans an opportunity to watch world-class level golf up close.

Dropping a level, it's time for one of my rants. Some soccer officials last week called again for Chung Mong-joon to step down as president of the Korea Football Association because he is running for president of the country. That controversial fire didn't need any more fuel. Chung's camp arranged a news conference to counter the request. My feeling? Soccer does not need politics or news conferences about politics. Mr. Chung should have resigned from his post long ago to prevent messes like this.

by Brian Lee

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