Yang Win Stirs Hope for Asian Golf Boom
Y.E. Yang's countrymen rose at 4 a.m. Monday in South Korea to watch his final-round defeat of Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship.
But the full impact of Yang becoming the first Asian-born golfer win one of the sport's major championships might not be felt for a decade.
"Clearly, it will excite Asia generally and Korea specifically," said PGA Tour vice president Ty Votaw, who led golf's campaign to join the Olympics.
South Koreans have been successful in women's golf since Se Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open in 1998.
"Korea was not a golf-playing nation 15 years ago," Votaw said. "Pak put Korea on the map."
The golf industry has been looking for opportunities in Asia for several years. Just this year the R&A and Augusta National created the Asia Amateur tournament, to be played this fall in China. The winner gets a spot in The Masters. And the PGA Tour will stage a World Golf Championships event this fall in China, where there is tremendous room for growth.
Though Woods, whose mother is Thai, is popular in Asia, Yang's victory brought a different kind of celebration. "It's always been our hope that we will see an Asian player win a major, and that day is here," Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han told the Associated Press.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was among those who watched, and he phoned Yang to congratulate him. "You enhanced our people's morale," Lee told Yang.
Yang's victory came four days after the IOC's Executive Committee recommended that the full IOC vote in October to add golf and rugby for the 2016 Olympics.
Votaw traces the development of golf in South Korea to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. "The Olympics forced Korea to open up to the world," Votaw said. "Ten years later, we had the success of Se Ri Pak."