Here come the women golfers -- againWhen I took a crystal ball reading in January, I predicted that Korean women golfers would win at least 10 LPGA events this year.
As most people know, No. 1 came Sunday when Pak Se-ri captured the Safeway Ping Championship in Phoenix, Arizona, by finishing 23 strokes under par for a 265.
As most also know, the next two finishers were both Koreans. Grace Park came in second while Han Hee-won tied Annika Sorenstam for third.
If you recall, Korean women took nine LPGA titles last year. Five of them were Pak’s, while compatriots Kim Mi-hyun, Park Hui-jeong and Grace Park claimed the others.
What is it that makes these golfers do so well? Are they perhaps deriving some mysterious energy from kimchi? Nah, can’t be the kimchi because I’ve been munching on the stuff as long as I remember but my golf score hasn’t dipped a bit in the last five years.
Still, there must be some explanation for this sudden rise of Korean female golfers. Eager to hunt down the reason, I called the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association, and talked to Yang Mu-yeol, an administrative director.
Mr. Yang tossed out the theory that a different approach to teaching female golfers over the past 25 years has been paying off. “It’s the Meister mentality, the search for the perfect teacher,” he said. Huh? I asked him if he meant that all Korean female golfers are now getting the same training under the same golf teacher. His answer was a blunt no.
I asked him about the possibility of special nutrition such as oriental herbs, which Chinese swimming teams are famous for taking. He shook his head. Taking a long shot, I inquired whether Korea’s climate played a favorable role. Nope.
By now, I was thoroughly confused. Here we had a bunch of Korean female golfers causing a huge stir on the LPGA tour and there was apparently no logical rationale behind their success.
I suggested that maybe, just maybe, Korean females were getting physically bigger. Shaking his head, Mr. Yang reminded me that Kim Mi-hyun’s nickname is “Peanut.”
So what’s the answer?
Mr. Yang then told me that back in the 1980s Korean women stuck to tournaments in Japan because Japan was easier to reach and saved on expenses. Playing on the LPGA tour was a problem then because finding a sponsor to cover travel expenses was no simple task. He suggested that Korean female golfers, due to their short competitive history, may have lacked the confidence to take on the LPGA.
In sum, Mr. Yang didn’t really have any good answers for this recent burst of success. I can only conclude that sponsoring firms had no player they felt confident enough in to lay out big bucks on before Pak Se-ri.
Also, until lately, Korean companies did not command a serious global profile so they had little need to advertise abroad. Pak Se-ri was the first player to demonstrate the potential of Korean women on the LPGA tour.
Pak not only raised the bar, she removed the bar that for so long had stopped Korean women who felt outclassed without ever playing on the LPGA. Pak, then, is the answer.
by Brian Lee
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