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Monday, July 28, 2008

Editorial note from Colin Farquharson: If like me, you have wondered what the explanation is for the ever-increasing number of successful South Korean female professional golfers, the answer is surely contained in the following excellent, informative article by Daily Telegraph golf correspondent LEWINE MAIR. We have republished it from the Daily sports website.

Why South Korea is producing so
many very good lady pro golfers

By LEWINE MAIR of the Daily Telegraph
Parents' input will have played as big a part as anything in the golfing development of South Korean competitors at this week's Ricoh Women's British Open at Sunningdale.
Some will have cajoled their offspring into practising, others will have gone in for a spot of bribery. Again, there are Koreans who will have applied rather more of a 'hands-on' approach. "I have never witnessed it myself," said Ho Yoon Park, from the South Korean Golf Association, "but some may have spanked them."
Speaking at the Ballantine's Championship held earlier this year on Jeju Island, Park admitted that South Korean parents had traditionally been hard on their daughters, tending to keep far closer tabs on them than would be the case in a European family.
Yet, for the most part, the girls who emerge from the South Korean school of golf are far from rebellious. Even if they were dragooned into spending eight or nine hours a day on the range in their formative years probably at the expense of their education, and everything else they end up driving themselves. It's in their blood.
No South Korean child is sent for private lessons, either for fun or to give parents a break. The parents test for talent and if, in their opinion, their boy or girl has it, they are prepared to spend their last penny on giving him or her every opportunity.
After all, the youngster could end up sufficiently well placed to keep them in their old age, just as they will have done their best to care for their mothers and fathers.
Ten to 15 years ago South Korean children were being pushed into musical careers, but when people came to see that golf offered a better chance of a lucrative living, there was a change of direction. And when further analysis demonstrated that daughters had a better chance than sons because the competition was not so great in the women's arena, they concentrated their resources on them.
Stephen Moriarty, who coaches at the David Leadbetter Academy in Seoul, is in awe of the discipline shown by his girl students, who range in age from 15 to 18. They are up at seven o'clock. They stretch, they run and they practise all morning. They might stop to drink from a bottle of water, but if Moriarty were to be diverted it would never occur to them to start chatting among themselves.
When, last winter, Moriarty and his team took these embryo professionals on a tournament-playing sortie to the Australian amateur tour, he wondered to what extent they would be influenced by more liberal sister competitors.
The answer was not at all. They went to bed at the usual time and, when asked what they would like to do as a treat on a free day, they chorused: "Play golf."
At the 1998 Women's British Open, Se Ri Pak was the only South Korean in the field. This week there are more than 30, and nine headed by Inbee Park, the US Open champion are in the top 20 on the LPGA's money list.
Things are quite different in the men's game where currently only two South Koreans, K?J Choi and Anthony Kim, play to a high level on the US PGA Tour. That there are families pushing girls ahead of boys will have had an obvious bearing on those statistics, but Choi and Kim have another explanation.
In their eyes, all the force-feeding which is apparently even more extreme for boys than girls has led to any number of promising juniors being burnt out before they turn professional. Kim would know. Although he and his father are now friends, they did not speak for two years as the young Kim American-born but to a traditional South Korean family was pushed to the point where he could take no more.
Thanks not least to Choi's and Kim's input, parents have been advised to water down their approach, even if, in the case of their daughters, they will obviously take some persuading. Why, after all, would they want to change a winning formula?
The extraordinary thing is that even if they were to agree to their daughters lopping an hour off their daily practice sessions, they would still be working twice as hard as girl golfers in the West and doing nothing to solve the latter's growing quandary: should they do as the South Koreans in placing golf above all else, or should they continue to put a rather more balanced way of life above golf?
++Korea is a divided country with two governments, Korea and South Korea. They are not on particularly good terms with each other. All the female golfers come from South Korea, not North of the Korean Border.