What separates Koreans from Americans at golf?

Monday August 31st, 2009

Nobody knows more about the mind-jarring success of Koreans at golf than Mike Bender, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher from Lake Mary, Fla. Indeed, Bender is to top Korean golfers what David Leadbetter was to leading Tour pros 20 years ago -- he is the coach. Bender has two golf academies specifically for his more than 50 top amateur and professional Korean charges. One academy is near Orlando and the other is in Inchon, Korea.On Sunday evening, I called Bender immediately after Byeong-Hun An, a 17-year-old high-school senior, became the youngest person to win the U.S. Amateur. The Korean victories are piling up at such an astonishing rate -– Jennifer Song at the Women's U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Public Links; Y.E. Yang at the PGA; the legions of women winning LPGA titles, including last week's Safeway Classic -– that I asked Mike to explain what separates Koreans from Americans at golf? Do the Koreans have a different approach to golf?"You have to look at how the Koreans train,” Mike said. “They train at golf with a very, very high degree of focus from a very young age. Now compare American juniors to Koreans, and you see that the American kids play other sports and have pursuits beyond golf. Not the Koreans. It’s all golf. And the kids just obey their parents, who are always with them so there’s no chance to goof around. Their time at golf is just so focused and methodically planned. The Koreans have an amazing stamina for practicing. They’re always the last ones to leave the course or range.”Mike continued. “There’s also the education element. Koreans tend to not focus on education, while the Americans put a high degree of importance on education. I believe that if you used the same approach as the Koreans have on American kids, you’d probably see the American kids have similar success.”

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