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Yang Yong-eun’s chip-in for an eagle on the 14th hole at the PGA Championship from a distance of 20 meters (66 feet) set up a dramatic scene similar to the one Pak Se-ri created 11 years ago when she made history in the world of Korean women’s golf. The shot helped propel Yang past the legendary Tiger Woods to his first major PGA title.

His surprising win gives Korea reason to celebrate, as he became not only the first Korean male golfer to win a major PGA Tour title but also the first one from all of Asia. It’s an inspiring tale in many ways. Yang, born into a poor family on Jeju Island, managed to keep his dream of becoming a top golf player alive while holding down a part-time job at a golf course.

Before the opening of this competition, Yang was ranked 110th and had never attracted much attention, obscured and overlooked as the media focused on the galaxy of star players.

His win underscores the importance of Koreans’ patience and reserved strength.

Ever since Pak Se-ri won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, women’s golf has seen remarkable growth here. We have plenty of star women golfers with amazing abilities, hence the accumulation of six victories during this year’s U.S. Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.

Now it’s time for the men to get in on the game as well, and we have no doubt that Korea will be recognized as a world-class leader in men’s golf.

Opportunely, the International Olympic Committee executive board selected golf and rugby for proposed inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games. It’s almost a lock that the IOC assembly will officially ratify the two sports this October. Korea certainly could harvest gold medals on this stage as well.

In a positive step for the future of the sport, Korea’s first university specializing in golf will soon open its doors. However, there are some deeply embedded problems in the environment and culture of the golfing world in Korea.

Golf is still considered to be a very expensive sport, relegating it to the part of the population that is reasonably well-off. Expensive golf equipment, greens fees and even several cases of corruption by public officials have created an overall prejudice against the sport here.

Oddly, we treat it as if it were an immoral sport.

But we should make every effort to improve the environment for golf in Korea and help foster more emerging stars like Yang Yong-eun. And government policy support is vital to accomplishing those goals. When golf establishes itself as a sound public sport, we will be able to further expand the base of Korean players and gain more attention on the international stage.
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