December 15, 2009

No. 5 -- The Korean Factor

Square mile for square mile South Korea continued to build a case as the planet's best incubator for golf talent.

Jiyai Shin winning three LPGA events and the tour's rookie-of-the-year award wasn't a surprise, but eight Korean women -- most introduced to the game as Se Ri Pak was making headlines in the States in the late '90s -- winning 11 titles (more than 40 percent of the LPGA schedule) may have been.

Elsewhere, native son-turned-Kiwi Danny Lee became the youngest winner of a European Tour event, and Lee's age-record for a U.S. Amateur winner lasted just a year when Byeong-Hun An, 17, prevailed at Southern Hills.

Even more historic was Y.E. Yang taking two PGA Tour events including the first major (PGA) by an Asian male -- and Chang-Won Han, another 17-year-old, winning the inaugural Asian Amateur. Outside the ropes two Korean media titans (J Golf, LPGA) and (SBS, PGA Tour) signed on as sponsors, and the Champions Tour announced an event in Korea for 2010.