Will his dream of the PGA come true?

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Jae-moon

Jae-moon

There is a 17 year-old teenager who feels that golf is his savour, something that is not normally found in someone his age.

Because of his excess weight, Eom Jae-moon was encouraged to enroll in the local gym where he discovered that they had an indoor driving range. It was not long before his mother was begging him to come home. He had lost all the weight that he needed to and in the process, had discovered a sport that he not only excelled in, but also fell in love with.

Like anyone his age, he was not very happy about the alarm clock going off at 6 am, as well as the hour long bus ride he had to take to the academy. This feeling would fade quickly after he had the feel of a golf club in his hands.

“I like the pressure of tournament golf, not knowing if you’re going to win or lose; it’s a rush,” said Jae-moon, who has

won one amateur tournament here.

His practice regiment would rival that of a professional, sometimes reaching up to 15 hours a day and hitting over 900 golf balls. All this under the watchful eye of a personal coach. Eom was living and breathing the sport, to the exclusion of all other things. This included his school work subjects like science and history. Other than practicing, his only other endeavors was practicing his English on the daily commute to and from the academy.

It would seem that his mother, Kim Han-mi is fully committed to his practicing. With the drive of a drill instructor, she has challenged her son towards a possible future on the PGA Tour.

“If he doesn’t do well at a tournament, I yell at him,” she said. “If he loses focus and blows chances for birdies, I get

upset.”

It has been more than a decade that South Korean golfers gained prominence on the internation scene. Jae-moon’s efforts is a good illustration of the national pride that is shown for the success stories over the years, however, it also shows the countries increased mania for golf.

South Korean is a nation that intent on success, which can be attested by the thousands of young golfers who learn a quick lesson. It is not simply acceptable for them to just play the game of golf, they are expected to be very proficient in the game, as well as turn professional and win tournaments and make their families proad. If you were to see how close these youths are managed, you would think that they were practicing for the Olympics, such as gymnastics or figure skating. The never ending practice with the hope of gold as a reward.

“I always tell my son, ‘We have to do more,’ ” Jae-moon’s mother said.

The professional golf popularity soared in momentum in 1998 when Se Ri-pak, an ex-shot putter entered the LPGA and captured both the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open Championship. This would be the first female rookie from South Korea to accomplish this feat and since that time, there have been more than a half dozen South Korean’s that have won majors in women’s professional golf.

Out of the 123 international players on the LPGA Tour, there are up to 43 South Korean’s that are expected to compete.

Korean players have accounted for five of the top 10 money winners, which also included Korean American Michelle Wie. Although the men have not enjoyed as much success, they are able to savour the defeat of Tiger Woods by Yang Yong-eun, who won the 2009 PGA Championship.

In the 251 courses available nationwide, there are approxiamtely 4 million South Koreans playing golf on them today. When you look at the comparison, there are 2,500 courses in Japan and currently 18,000 courses in the U.S.

Although Jae-moon does not attend any classrooms, he arrives at school each day at 9 a.m. Due to a largely unregulated industry, the golf academy will decide how many, if any, academic subjects that the students will be offered.

With such a high  number of people to golf courses, the greens fee for these courses are incredibly high, Jae-moon is limited to only three 9-hole rounds on an actual golf course. This leaves the rest of his time spent in in the vast center, which includes sand traps, driving ranges and putting greens.

For all of his efforts, Jae-moon gets home at midnight or later most nights. He gets to act like a teenager with his friends maybe one night a week, usually Sunday. Such is the life this young man has put in to reach his dream. There just does not seem to be enought time for everything.

He has been the rebellious teen only once and that was when he had gotten his ear pierced. It wasn’t that his mother didn’t like it, she didn’t. But he removed it when his coach had frowned on such embellishments.

If you think his coaches can be tough on him, you would be right, but not as tough as his mother. Jae-moon’s mother nearly ended his career. It was not for the earing or the lack of her son’s well rounded life. It was because he missed a birdie putt. Tough lady.

“I gave him hell. I told him we’d send him abroad to study,” she said. “If he was destined to play golf, he’d make more

birdies. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. We fought. He cried. He kept playing golf.”

All the work Jae-moon has put into his craft will soon have him leave for a month to Thailand where the warmer weather and the luxury of playing on an actual course will allow for a more real-world golf experience, under the watchful eyes of his coach. He an hardly wait to go.

“Just knowing that I’m going to play golf makes me happy,” he said. “I walk on the grass at the course and I feel good.”

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