This is a story about a PGA teaching professional from Chicago who always dreamed of visiting New York but never got to the Big Apple until he first went to teach golf to kids in Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom.
In the spring of 2007, Scott Janus was looking through the job openings on the PGA of America's website. Scott was teaching at a course in Southern California and coaching a men's college team, but he wanted to do something different during the upcoming winter. Scott saw the posting for a job as program director with the Bhutan Youth Golf Association. The job sounded intriguing: teaching golf to kids in the Himalayas.
Here's where I enter the story. In 2002, I took a sabbatical from Sports Illustrated to be Bhutan's first golf professional. I'm not a PGA teacher, but I am a decent player who knows a lot about teaching golf. To prepare for my new work, I solicited guidance from top PGA teaching pros who offered to give me crash courses on teaching the game. In Bhutan, I gave lessons to men and women at Royal Thimphu, Bhutan's only course. I also created the BYGA, a charity youth program that I continued to manage after returning to New York. One of my jobs as president of the BYGA was to hire the golf pros to run the day-to-day operation in Bhutan.
The BYGA has been very successful in bringing golf and all of the game's life lessons and opportunities to Bhutanese boys and girls largely because of the incredible dedication and hard work of PGA teachers like Scott. We've sent about a dozen pros to Bhutan, and most of them say that teaching in Bhutan was the highlight of their careers. That is certainly true with Scott.
Last fall, a friend told Scott about an essay contest sponsored by Sports Illustrated that asked people to write about their greatest sports moment. Scott wrote about his work in Bhutan, and several weeks later he was shocked to learn that his essay was the grand-prize winner. (Read the essay at the bottom of this article.) He won a trip to any city in America to meet his favorite athlete. Scott chose New York so he could meet Mariano Rivera, the Yankees closer.
A few weeks ago, Scott called to tell me that he was coming to New York and wanted to meet. He didn't say why he was coming, and I didn't know about the contest. During a phone call to plan our meeting, Scott told me about the contest. I was thrilled.
The boy to whom Scott refers in his essay is Jeevan Gurung, now 18 and one of the best golfers in Bhutan. A week ago, Scott exchanged e-mails with Jeevan to tell him about the contest and his trip to New York. Scott asked if Jeevan wanted to play college golf in America.
"That's my dream and I am really trying hard to get sponsors or a scholarship to play in America," Jeevan wrote. "I want to make my life through golf. Golf lives in my heart."
Now, Jeevan's dream is one step closer to reality. Scott has been using his coaching contacts to solicit a scholarhsip for Jeevan, and a couple of days ago the coach at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., expressed sincere interest in Jeevan and is now considering him as a recruit.
The winning essay
From November 2007-May 2008, I was appointed Golf Coach to the Kingdom of Bhutan. During my stay I taught the youth in the capital of Bhutan 5 days per week every morning. One of my other duties was to travel across the nation to help implement golf into the lower secondary schools. While I was there I was able to teach the youth many advanced techniques in terms of pre-shot routine, swing mechanics, and overall fundamentals. Just several months after returning to the United States, I received a phone call. The phone call described how one of the 15-year-old boys I had coached had just qualified for the World Junior Golf Championships at Mission Hills, China. This information was amazing considering that the boy had never played on a full regulation championship golf course and also that he has lived his entire life in the Himalayas. The story is great and shows that anyone can become a champion under any and all circumstances.