Jiya Shin, ranked No. 10 in the world, captured her second career major shooting 71 and 73 in a 36-hole final Sunday at the 2012 Women's British Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club with a record-breaking 9-shot victory. Shin's victory at the Open meant that for the first time in the Ladies Professional Golf Association's (LPGA) history, all four major titles in one season are held by Asian-born players, 3 by South Koreans.
Shin joined Sun Young Yoo who captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Na Yeon Choi who won the U.S. Women's Open, and Shanshan Feng from mainland China who won the LPGA Championship. The rest of the leaderboard included Inbee Park as the runner-up and American Paula Creamer at 3rd, joined by two other Americans in the top ten, Stacy Lewis and Katie Fucher. The weather as usual in British Opens was the major issue putting a dampener on the players, especially Karrie Webb, the 72-hole leader.
The sweep by Asian players of the majors this year comes 14 years after Se Ri Pak of South Korea became a national hero by capturing two straight LPGA majors: the U.S. Women's Open and the LPGA Championship in 1998. 12 of the players on the LPGA's top 20 money list are Asians, including #1 Park ($1,419,940) of S. Korea.
Surely the United States Golf Association (USGA) and other Federations are trying to discover and duplicate the South Korean Golf Assoc. Although making strides, none have had the same dominance, with only 4 Americans in the top money list. As good as reporting is on all levels, if there was one thing or something tangible it would have been cloned and there would be parity among the nations.
One intangible that is helping is the Asian culture. South Korean television signs on every morning with the national anthem, accompanied by images to instill national pride, like the military, Pak and other successful athletes. Also children are in school, then an after-school program in education or in a sports activity until it's time to go to bed everyday, unlike Western culture with its freer, more rounded emphasis. Most Asian children are expected to help their family and their country succeed, and golf is the new path to success even to the exclusion of education.
Besides more opportunity, another advantage is a more open sponsorship where even low ranked pros are assisted with their bills for travel and training in contrast to the USA. Ask American Meg Mallon winner of the 2004 US Open who had no sponsors. Won-Seok Choi, a manager for Hi-Mart, Korea's Best Buy, sponsors several players on the LPGA Tour and dozens more in Korea. "We like to support many Korean women golfers because they have a chance to become a big player, like Se Ri Pak...Asian people have very strong families, and support is the most important thing."
At the U.S. Women's Open this weekend, 5 Korean players were still on the putting green as darkness fell. Shin remarked that, "We work hard...I think so many Asia players are playing at the moment on the LPGA Tour, so it makes a lot of chance to win." In tennis, long-time coaches believe that the more numbers exposed to the sport early on, especially to those athletes who have a hunger for the sport and penchant for success, will lead to more great champions. Unless the USGA invests more in First Tee and the USTA in NJTL or similar grass roots programs and minor levels of play, particularly in the larger segment of the population, then the South Koreans and other Asians, who have done so already, will continue to excel.