There were plenty of rice cake leaves dreaming of becoming the next Inbee Park or Sungjae Lim.
123 youth golfers from across the country competed in six divisions, divided into boys and girls, elementary, middle and high school. There were six winners. Their interviews were filled with the scent of mastery.
The sixth edition of the 2023 Junior Golf Series, organized by the Korea Junior Golf Association (JGAK), concluded at Baekje Country Club in Buyeo, Chungcheongnam-do, on Sept. 19.
Kim Soo-hyun (13), who won the boys’ secondary school division with a 1-over-par 73, was cool as a cucumber. His personality was as cool as his tee shot.
“I came out thinking I was going to win,” he said, “and I didn’t even have a shanked shot today, but all my approach shots went in, so I survived (laughs).”
Luck is also skill. When asked if he believes this, he says, “No, I don’t.”
His role model is Colin Morikawa (USA). His answer is a masterpiece. “I like the way he puts with his forefinger grip,” he laughs. He adds that he recently changed his grip to follow his idol.
Kim Hwa-pyeong (Canaan Academy 6), who won the boys’ primary division, was shy. But he had plenty to say.
“This is my 10th time competing and my first time winning,” he said, “I honestly didn’t think I could win, but I’m glad it turned out like this.”
He said golf is fun. “It’s a lot of fun to play a round and reduce the score,” he smiled.
Ko Da-yeon (Bibongjung 2) shot a 3-under-par 69 to top the girls’ secondary division. She shaved three strokes off her score in the first half of the round, putting her well clear of the second-place group.
Citing “the feeling of satisfaction when the ball goes into the hole” as her favorite part of the game, Ko is a prepared golfer who pays attention to her diet early on.
“If I eat salty or spicy food the day before a tournament, my body swells up and my shots don’t go well, so I’ve been eating and sleeping lightly since the beginning of the year,” she says, adding, “Last night, I ate shabu-shabu and slept.”
As a role model, he cites ‘Assault Captain’ pro Hwang Yoo-min. “It’s really cool that he has a lot of distance despite his short stature. I’m not very tall (160 centimeters), so I think I admire him even more.”
“I’d like to learn more about Hwang’s cool shots and aggressive approach to the course,” he said, biting his lip.
Jang Myung-jong (Daejeon Bangtongo 2), who won the men’s high school division with a 1-under par 71, said, “It was very foggy today (19th), so I thought I wouldn’t be able to hit it, but I’m surprised that it turned out better than I thought.”
He cited his mindlessness as the secret to his victory. “I think it was the fact that I played with an empty mind,” he said, leaving a deep impression. Jang Myung-jong’s average distance was 280 yards. The future was promising.
Park Sae-rom (Youngdong Industrial Science High School 2) shot a 1-under par 71 to lift the women’s high school trophy. She used a razor putt to beat out Lee Seung-min and Kim Do-ah for the top spot on the podium.
“I was worried about my shots, which are my strengths, but I was able to win because I putted well,” she said. “I think that’s the beauty of golf, that even if your first shot is shaky, you can make up for it with a birdie (with a putt). It’s attractive because it’s a sport that you don’t know until the end,” she said shyly.
Her older sister, Park Dae-hee (Youngdong Industrial Science High School 3), won the fifth round of the Junior Golf Series last month. A JGAK official watching the award ceremony said, “Both sisters are really good at golf,” and gave them a thumbs-up.
When asked if her older sister gave her any advice, she humbly replied, “There was no such thing. I just thought that since she won (the championship), I could do it too.”
Park Jung-yeon (Mabukcho 6) took the top spot in the girls’ primary division. She revealed a strange jinx. “If I play well on the first hole of a tournament, I tend to play poorly after that, and if I go bad (on the first hole), I tend to go bad after that,” she said.안전놀이터
“Today (Sept. 19) I didn’t play well on the first hole either, but I’m not going to intentionally miss (the first hole),” he laughed.
A strange interview ensued. One answer reeked of “mental armor. “I think the charm of golf is that your mood can go up and down during the round,” Park said.
This seemed to be the secret to winning the championship even after slipping on the first hole. Where there’s a downhill, there’s an uphill, the elementary school golfer told me.