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LPGA Today

Why Shouldn't Asian Women Dominate Golf? - Part 2

May 14, 2013

by William Szczepanek

Se-Ri-Pak I love the way South Koreans win. They do it calmly, like many American professional athletes did in the past. I picture Gale Sayers galloping for a touchdown and casually tossing the ball over his shoulder after crossing into the end zone. Or, Mickey Mantle kitting a home run and trotting across home plate and then heading to the dugout without a show of emotion. No big deal. They do it like they have been there before and expect to do it again. (Picture: Se Ri Pak)

In Part II of this set of articles we will look at aspects of life that prepare us for success and which may be reasons for the success of Korean golfers.


Okay. Let's just get this out of the way quickly. I do believe that certain physical attributes are more common to certain ethnic backgrounds. Kenyans tend to be able to run faster than many other people because of living for centuries in the rarified air of higher altitudes in that part of Africa. Can't argue with that and can't change the air in the lowlands. They also run from place to place since it is part of their culture. Kip Keino and his success in the Olympics also inspired the youth of Kenya to run.

Certain genetic backgrounds foster more people who are taller. The sport of basketball is geared toward these people. Other sports have certain physical attributes that contribute to playing those sports better.

In general, Koreans are short and not too muscular. They are not born golfers. So, I would eliminate genetics as a factor and will even consider it a hindrance, though some would say that they excel naturally at things that require manual dexterity and mental cultivation, but I don't think that those are genetic. They are the result of continued hard work. While strength can be a an asset in golf, the attributes that successful golfers really need to hone are touch and consistency, both of which are developed over a long period of time. (Picture: So Yeon Ryu)

So Yeon Ryu


"There is no such thing as a natural touch. Touch is something you create by hitting millions of golf balls." ─ Lee Trevino

Lee Trevino was an American who came from a poor background. He succeeded by outworking others. Yes, the Koreans are outworking us and the impact is great, but not always without cost. They are first on the range and the last to leave. But, burn out and injury are common and too much practice can be detrimental. What is necessary is the ability to practice efficiently using time as wisely as possible.

Al Kaline, a Major League Baseball player from half a century ago, criticizes current players for their lack of focus in practice.

"What gets me upset with the newer players is their lack of intensity. They tend to go through the motions a little bit. They don't understand that you've got to practice the way you play." ─ Al Kaline

To get better at anything you need to practice with a purpose and constantly look to learn from practice. That takes focus and the ability to learn from the experience. Korean culture stresses constant repetition in pursuit of perfection. It may be that Koreans are better at practicing and do it more because of their ability to learn from the experience and not consider it boring work.

As a kid I played baseball. I didn't just play baseball, I lived baseball. I would search out friends and we would hit fly balls and ground balls for hours at a time. I loved practicing baseball as much as I enjoyed playing in a game. In fact, practice often seemed better because you had so many more chances to make plays and it was fun. The actual games were important for us to be able to learn to compete and play under pressure, but without all of that fun practice, success at playing would have been much harder to achieve.

Golf practice is not a social experience. It takes isolated focus and intensity. I see many American golfers chatting on the range. I see Korean golfers focused on getting better. Maybe Koreans really like to practice and would just as well have Americans think it is work. (Note: Need to do a survey.)

Chee Yun Kim


Music and golf ─ I see many golfers wearing ear pods while practicing. That's not the comparison I'm looking to make. I think there is a distinct correlation between music and golf, particularly in how both are practiced. Focus and repetition are necessary for muscle memory to work to your advantage. Concert pianists memorize an entire piece before they are able to add depth, tone and feeling. Golfers need to memorize the mechanics of the swing so they do not need to think about it at all when they play, so they can focus on results ─ seeing the ball leave the ground and fall in the hole. (Picture: Chee Yun Kim)

Classical music is not very popular in America anymore. The ability to play an instrument extremely well is not considered important and many American parents will consider it a waste of time. Many female Koreans are expected to excel at the most difficult instruments, piano and violin, even if their ultimate profession will take them in a different direction. Korean Gangnam Style is popular, but has distinct hints of Western influence. It may be one of those demons.


The value of education, in general, cannot be emphasized enough.

"Education is not learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think." ─  Albert Einstein

The ability to learn comes from expanding the learning experience. Education is very important in the Korean society and Asians do not seem to be as phased as Americans who succumb to the taunts of "geek" or "brain". How about the fact that most Koreans have had to learn English on top of all of the other stuff they need to do. How about the fact they they score at or near the top in math, science and language in the world.

For a long time the U.S. was the place to come for an education and foreign students often did this and returned to their own country to work there. Today American colleges and universities cater to foreign students who can afford to pay the higher tuition rates. Many middle class U.S. students are not able to  compete academically because of a deficient learning process before college  and also have trouble getting into the best colleges financially, even if they are academically qualified. Even state schools supported by taxes of U.S. citizens are run more like corporations out to make big bucks than to educate.

In Korea schools are even more competitive and students work much harder and longer at studies than the typical American. When it comes to golf the same is true. Learning to play golf is considered an educational experience. With limited opportunities those with talent work harder to achieve their goals, consequently a larger number of golfers are coming out of these countries, like Korea, with ultra-competitiveness built into their lifestyle.

Oftentimes hunger for something will enable some to make that extra effort, or extra sacrifice, that lifts them above others. Outside of these efforts sometimes working the mind in areas that are complementary can have very positive effects, like interest in music or math. This combination can give someone an advantage in that they have expanded their brain to be able to work more efficiently at everything, including golf.

It has often been stated that Koreans outwork Americans. What Americans may not understand is that Koreans may enjoy working hard.


So, in many respects, South Koreans are expected to excel at many things. What many people often miss is the relationship of learning experiences that can complement each other and actually develop the brain to be more effective at learning anything.

The educational system in America is on the decline. People talk of money and try to put forth solutions for how to better this dismal situation. Part of it is the fault of the higher educational system that looks more at how to make a profit than how to educate better. At the lower or elementary levels there is often not enough support by teachers and guidance from parents in the home. Teachers blame parents and parents blame teachers. It's really an area where both need to work together for optimal success.

In general, the Korean system seems to be working better.

Part I Why Shouldn't Asian Women Dominate Golf?
Part III Work Ethic, Parenting and Culture
Part IV Heroes and Role Models, Sponsorships  and Money




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