I was delighted to see one of my former pupils South Korean Julie Yang winning a card to play on the LPGA tour in America. I coached Julie for a year in 2010 when she was boarding at the Loretto school in Musselburgh.
I will always remember our first lesson together when after asking how old she was (14), I asked her if she had a handicap. My jaw just about hit the floor when she told that she did and it was +3.
We had a very successful year together with Julie winning the English, Welsh and Danish ladies stroke play tournaments and qualifying to play in the British Open. By the end of the year, having just turned 15, her handicap was an astounding +5.
Unfortunately the partnership ended that year as Julie and her family moved to America to take advantage of the fantastic weather and facilities over there.
Which brings me to the subject of ladies golf in South Korea and why they are so successful. A recent look at the world rankings shows that they currently have 39 players in the worlds top 100. By comparison England have 3 and Scotland 1. I asked Julie this question once and she gave me two main reasons.
The first reason for their success was work ethic. An elite Korean girl would think nothing of practicing 8-10 hours every day. They are incredibly driven and see this as the norm if they are to have a chance to be successful.
The second reason is they specialise early. They are not interested in being good at lots of different sports,they want to be brilliant at one. She told me that the players parents will often pull the girl out of school and arrange for a tutor to teach them at home thereby leaving more time for golf practice.
This attitude is very different to what we do in the UK. Children are encouraged to play lots of sports and often as parents we will avoid pushing them too hard in case they lose desire and motivation to play the sport they are good at.
The big problem of course is that the golfer may burnout early and their career could be a short one and I am sure that their are young Korean players who have lost interest in the game because of this. However their can be no doubt that the success of ladies golf in South Korea is an incredible story and one that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.