The Ride Of His Life, Bumps And All
Continued (page 3 of 3)
"If you look at John's situation," Salas says, "he has a lot of pressure, being 22 and having to support his family. His goal every week is to make a check."
Huh's share of second place at the Valero Texas Open came after starting the tournament eight over par through eight holes. A lipout or two probably kept him out of a playoff. In his first time around TPC Sawgrass at the Players Championship, he shot an ugly 75 before a second-round 66 led to one of eight checks this year of more than $90,000, big numbers for someone who balked at the finances of playing golf his senior year of high school.
Huh remains unflappable. Everyone who has ever been in his presence--his caddie, his high school coach, his college coach who never was, tour operators, officials, sponsors, agents, equipment-manufacturer reps--describes him as a great kid, yet he can come off as distant or distrusting or disinterested. Many concede his father still makes most of the decisions for John, whether it be on what temperature to set the thermostat to whether to sign an endorsement contract. (Huh eventually signed an endorsement deal in June for the Ping clubs he'd been playing for years.) On his own, Huh can appear puzzled and focused in rapid succession, distracted by a house lining a fairway and riveted by the tiny notes he makes in his yardage book. He moves in a bubble, but he is more lost in thought and commitment to his process than he is aloof.
"He's not intimidated by where he is," says Mike Vincent, one of Huh's friends from the Hansen Dam days. "Even though he's at the highest level in the game, I don't think he sees it that way."
The new house is not that far from the home of Huh's hero, Y.E. Yang, whose win at the PGA Championship in 2009 is being hailed as having the same potential influence on the future of Korean golf as Se Ri Pak's victory in the U.S. Women's Open a decade earlier.
"He has all he needs to be a success out here; he's proven that," Yang said during a practice round the two were playing earlier this year. "He just needs to remember to let the game come to him. Golf takes time and patience. Too many players fall into a trap and want everything right away. It's like the game itself: It's about minimizing your mistakes."
Those lonely subway rides were barely three years ago. Now, just as fans did for Yang, they're talking about Huh from Seoul to the streets of L.A.'s Koreatown, just a short distance from where he played at Hansen Dam.
Says the Pepsi Tour's Boveri, "We've got some young Korean kids playing our events who come to me and say, 'I want to be John Huh. I can be John Huh.' "
They might end up where John Huh is someday, but no one will ever take the same ride.