"The Impact of
Asians in Golf"
by Antonio Marshall
Master of Science in
The impact of Asians
and Asian-Americans in the game of golf has been of a phenomenal
success. This success has resulted in the Asian culture’s increase
of interest in the game. According to current statistics provided
by the National Golf Foundation, there are great increases of
diverse interests in the game of golf. About 2.4 million of
today's golfers are from an ethnic status. From the 2.4 million
ethnic golfers, about 882,000 are African-American, about 851,000
are Asian/ Pacific Islander, and about 712,000 are American
Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut. There are also great increases of new
golfers everyday, and the interest alone is booming. Today’s
golfers reserve about forty percent of the U.S. population. Out of
this 40 percent, 11.7 million (44%) are between the ages of 18 and
39, 6.7 million (27%) consists of Seniors (age 50+), and the rest
of the golfer population falls into the Middle-Age category (age
40-49) at 21 percent, and the Junior category (age 12-17) at 8
percent. There is also an increase in the purchase of golf
merchandise, and an increase in television ratings for tournaments
sponsored by the PGA Tour. As a result, college students as well
as younger kids are spending their time and money visiting the
driving range, in an attempt to either develop their skills, or to
become the next professional.
The domination of
Tiger Woods (above), who proudly states a quarter of his ethnic
background being of Asian decent, has hooked the world on golf.
Tiger has been a dominating figure in golf since his early
childhood. Since his early years, Tiger has been swinging a golf
club and challenging himself to become one of the elite by
reaching and defeating golf records set by past golfers. As a
result, Tiger became one of the youngest record holders, placing
him as one of the most popular sports figures in the history of
athletics. Because of his success, participation and interest in
the game has reached great levels, especially for the youth. He
is, without a doubt, the most recognized sports figure in the
world. Although Tiger's domination of the game and his competitors
is a huge step for the Asian heritage, he is not the only Asian
figure dominating the game. There are other Asian figures making
high strides in the game of golf at various levels.
Vijay Singh (above), the winner of the 2000 Masters in Augusta,
Georgia, overcame great strides to become the great golfer he
currently is. A native of Fiji, he had a love for the game all his
life. He worked hard at his game and became the best on his island
at age 15. By the age of 17, he decided to seek greater challenges
to conquer. Earlier in his career he had a minor setback due to an
incident with the Asian Tour, but he continued to work on his
game. He eventually joined the European Tour and became a success.
In 1993 Singh joined the PGA Tour where he became rookie of the
year and eventually the Masters champion.
Tiger and Vijay both
have certain dominance and finesse to their game that demands the
attention and respect of their competitors. The “Golden Bear’,
Jack Nicklaus, even admits his awe of Tiger’s accomplishments.
Tiger, whose success is constantly compared to Jack Nicklaus, has
not achieved anything short of success in overthrowing records set
by the “Golden Bear”. The fruits of Tiger’s success have created a
unique connection with all golfers of all ages, especially with
the youth. Vijay Singh, on the other hand, has created a similar
impact, but towards a different class. Vijay’s struggle and
success across the globe helped to define his character. He is an
individual who knows how to succeed and accept defeat with class.
This story of international inspiration gained popularity with the
older golfers around the world.
The PGA is not the only area being impacted by Asian golfers. The
receiving its fair share of impacts as well. Se Ri Pak (above) and
Grace Park are two female Asian golfers whose game is no less that
dominating, and are setting trends for others to follow. Se Ri Pak
began playing golf at the age of 14. Even at this age, her talent
was defined. As an amateur in Korea, she won over 30 golf
tournaments. She turned pro in 1996 and made the LPGA Tour on her
first attempt. From this point Pak never looked back. She claimed
numerous victories including the McDonald's LPGA Championship, the
U.S. Women's Open, the Kroger Classic, and the Giant Eagle LPGA
Classic. As a result of her compilation of winnings, Pak was named
the 1998 Rolex Rookie of the Year.
Grace Park (above)
is another female Asian golfer whose presence is becoming known on
the golf course. She won five of the ten Futures Tour events in
which she participated. Park also played in five LPGA Tour events
in 1999. As a result, she was named the 1999 SBC Futures Tour
Player of the Year.
Other Asian women
that will have a future impact on the LPGA are: Mi Hyun Kim, Jeong
Jang, Pearl Sinn, Soo Yun Kang, Gloria Park, Oh-Yeon Kwon, Hee-Won
Han, Jenny Park-Choi, and Nan Kyong Ha. For years, golfers of
Asian decent have not only held a spot in the PGA, but were
responsible for its popularity. As for the women, will these lady
players possibly make the LPGA more popular than the PGA Tour?
Only time will tell.
The game of golf is definitely a sport on the rise from its label
of being a “retired man’s game”. It is also drifting away from
being a game played by mostly the rich and elite. The golfers
previously discussed are definitely considered trailblazers in
golf for the Asian culture. The successes of these golfers have
created a huge impact and have definitely encouraged the
participation of more Asian and Asian-American golfers. Now more
than ever, a greater number of Asian and Asian-American golfers
are attracted to the game and are leaving trails of success at all
levels of play. Because of the tremendous impact created by
golfers of various backgrounds, a great majority of the world’s
population has picked up a golf club, played a golf video game, or
watched some sort of play of the game for more than five minutes.
The label of golf being a game enjoyed only by the rich, or the
retired white male population has placed a negative stigma on the
game, leading to the assumption that the game is biased.
Nevertheless, diverse participation and success, current golf
statistics, and a visit to the local golf course has, and will
further, aid in the success of weakening the effect of this
stereotype. It will allow all people to recognize the beauty and
purity of the greatest game ever invented.
S i d e b a r I n c l u s i o n
There is research being done by Mr. Antonio Marshall, a graduate
student at Virginia Tech, whose thesis project is to design a golf
facility geared towards the youth, with an emphasis on attracting
youths from all backgrounds. With the help of other citizens and
organizations, today’s youth will soon have a custom golf facility
that will nurture them in the game of golf.