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LPGA Today

Why Shouldn't Asian Women Dominate Golf? - Part 3

May 14, 2013

by William Szczepanek

In Part III we examine work ethic, parenting and culture as part of the reasons for success.

We continue our analysis of why female Koreans are dominating the sport of golf.
I come from a time where parents sacrificed in order to help their kids get to the next level. I was pretty much brought up in an all around American community with many different nationalities composing the mix. Having a Polish background with a parochial education provided advantages and disadvantages, but overall I saw more then of what I see in Korean culture and values now, than what I see in typical American culture. There are lazy Koreans and Americans who outwork others, but at this time it appears that Koreans are outworking the Americans.

Work Ethic

Many contend and it is probably true that the Koreans work harder than most others. "They have no life"  is a common retort.  But life is what you make of it. I remember a time back in the 1960s when the majority of young people in the USA began to go to college in large numbers. The opportunity was provided by parents who could now afford college for their kids and by the government which provided educational opportunities to develop the knowledge in their young to take this country into the future, creating a position of strength in the world. The USA had gone though the Great Depression and a couple of major wars, much like the South Koreans after their country was all but destroyed in the Korean conflict. It is the passion to get to a new place, a new level, that changes a culture for the better.

There was a period of "delayed gratification" that almost every successful person went through  ─  a time when certain fun things were put aside to study, work and prepare for the future. It was also called sacrifice. Sacrifice now so you can live well in the future and in most cases it paid great dividends because the USA was poised with jobs that needed talented people.

People from other countries flocked to our schools to get the education that was necessary for the future. Not doing other things to make more time to practice and play golf can be a sacrifice. I contend that noteworthy goals are not usually accomplished without sacrifice.


Good parenting plays a large role in a child's success. Asian kids respect their parents more than American kids do and consequently the Korean parents support and push their kids to succeed more easily. The parents do this simply because there are not enough jobs to go around and only the best will have a chance at success. That is what good parents do. Sound familiar? We have the same situation in the USA, but the rich seem to think that they are entitled to get richer, even at the expense of the poor, and the poor seem to expect help from everyone simply because of their condition. Consequently, the young poor give up sooner in the USA and the young rich don't have the work ethic to push themselves. In general, families don't work together as well as they once did in the USA and even Asians who are here for awhile tend to fall into the Western trap. Successful golfers in the USA tend to have very supportive parents, whether rich or poor.

Certain Korean parenting techniques are often at odds with what current Americans consider important. Also, Americans tend not to push their kids too hard because they feel that there is a need to "stop and smell the flowers", but what they really fear is losing the relationship if they can't remain friends with their kids. But it was not always this way. Kids in the USA fifty to sixty years ago were brought up in much the same way as Koreans are now. There was appropriate discipline for those who got out of line and there was a respect for authority that matched the goals of the parents.

American parents, in general but not always, are also less likely to sacrifice their own wealth to help in the achieving of success of their kids. By the time most kids are ready to leave high school in America, if they have the opportunity to go to college they often flub it because they don't have the discipline to focus on what's important and parents are so frustrated with raising their kids that they can't wait for them to leave home. Sounds like a recipe for failure.


Now we are getting into a very meaningful category that encompasses many of the individual components of success that we are investigating. Culture is but a way of life, a way to live. It is the cumulative effect of knowledge, values and attitudes obtained by a group of people through generations of attempts at success. It fosters the ability of people to work together well in their respective roles. In the USA roles are changing rapidly and the ability to work together is strained in both work and the family.

Korean parents think that the current style of American parenting is irresponsible. Tough love no longer comes easy to Americans and kids are more likely to rebel against it because the current culture encourages a false sense of independence. Getting away from your parents is often thought of as being independent, but many of these kids fail to get the adult picture of life because they are not around those who care most about their success.

It appears that the Korean culture motivates their people to be successful. The American culture now motivates their people to have balance. Americans stress well-roundedness. The problem with being well-rounded is that you may not have an edge ─ the edge that enables you to succeed in a competitive environment, like life. Korean culture stresses constant repetition in pursuit of perfection. Americans think that creativity is most important, but meaningful creativity is usually not possible without a thorough understanding of the basics.

Some Successful Korean Americans

Michelle WieMichelle Wie is American. Her parents are Korean and raised her in their ways. To most Americans the Stanford graduate can be considered a huge success at a very early age. Now that she is struggling a bit Americans think that it is because of pushy parents. Please give me a break. Yes, Michelle had the advantage of money and training and gobs more in benefits to foster her game. She isn't burned out. She has lost her game. She has lost her consistency, particularly in her putting. The pressure she is under comes from the thoughts in the back of her mind that say she will not regain that consistency. Some players  do regain their game after losing it. Some don't. It's an elusive thing particularly if you have everyone telling you to change or try something different. Michelle needs to find her old game and her parents can't help her anymore, except in being supportive. At some point, even with Koreans, independence needs to occur and often Korean parents can do harm by being around too much after their kids are grown.

Christina KimChristina Kim is also American. Her parents are also Korean and raised her in their ways. However, Christina is a rebel. She is one of those independent people who have to fight the system. But, the cultural influence is still present. She works hard and plays hard ─ very hard, but she is very American and many Koreans do not look favorably on her actions, just like many Americans do not look favorably on some Asian golfers. Through all of her ups and downs, she has done it predominantly the American way, with exuberant fist pumps, excitement and depression. Americans love her for who she is.

Michelle Wie and Christina Kim are two of many American golfers with Korean heritage. They are both exceptional golfers even if they never win another tournament. Their cultures are so jumbled together in these two very different people in ways that make me surprised they don't implode from the opposing pressures placed on them. Considering everything, they are both very amazing people, as are any who have the talent to play golf at the level of the LPGA.

Part I Why Shouldn't Asian Women Dominate Golf?
Part II Genetics, Practice, Music and Education
Part IV Heroes and Role Models, Sponsorships  and Money




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