If you have never played golf and you’re 19 years old, give it a try. You could be good one day. Maybe, you could even win the PGA Championship. Impossible you say? Not quite. On Sunday, 37-year-old Korean Y. E. Yang, who picked up a golf club for the first time when he was 19, won the PGA Championship, which held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
Yang discovered golf while working at the Jeju’s Ora Country Club. At the club, he learned to golf by watching players hit balls at the driving range and then mimicking their moves. After teaching himself, Yang discovered that he had a passion for the sport and, after his required military service at the age of 21, moved to New Zeland to pursue a career in professional golf. Eventually, he joined the Japanese pro tour. Yang did not join the PGA tour until 2008. To join the PGA tour, he had to earn his PGA card through a qualifying school. The fact that Yang won the PGA Champioship just one year after earning his PGA card is only one of the reasons why his victory was amazing. Yang didn’t even play in this year’s U.S. Open and British Open, and his best result in a major coming into this year was tied for 13th at the 2007 Masters. Also, Yang is the first Asian-born male to win a major.
So how did Yang win the tournament? Yang shot a spectacular six under during the first three rounds, earning him a tie for second place going into Sunday. Even though Yang was tied for second, nobody outside of South Korea thought he would win. Why? In first was Tiger Woods at eight under, who had never lost a lead after three rounds in a major tournament. Also, Yang was to be paired with Tiger on Sunday. Historically, whoever played with Tiger during the final round of any tournament crumbled under the pressure. Just a week before, Padraig Harrington triple bogeyed whole 16 at the WGC-Bridgestone invitational while paired with Tiger. Going into the whole, Harrington was one up on Tiger. After the whole, Tiger, who birdied, had a three-stroke lead. He would go on to win by four. On Sunday morning, most thought that Yang’s round would mirror Harrington’s the Sunday before.
Yang made sure it was not to be. During the final round, Yang played like Tiger. And Tiger? Well, he played like somebody playing against Tiger. On hole14, with Yang and Tiger tied at six under, Yang chipped in for eagle. Then, on whole seventeen, with Yang at eight under and Tiger at seven under, it looked as if Yang was getting nervous. Yang missed a very short put for par, pushing it wide right. Fortunately for Yang, Tiger bogeyed as well, and Yang remained one up going into 18. Yang’s nerves did not carry into eighteen. Woods and Yang both hit drives in the fairway, but Yang’s approach shot was much better. Yang’s shot, which he hit with a hybrid 3-iron, sailed over a tree and bunker and landed eight feet from the whole. Meanwhile, Tiger’s approach shot missed the green entirely. Y.E. went on to sink the putt and win with a nine under.
Yang’s victory could impact golf’s global popularity more than almost any other victory in the history of majors. The fact that an Asian not only won but literally beat Tiger in match play is sure to cause thousands of Asians, not only in South Korea but also in places such as China, to take up golf. Who knows, maybe a person that Yang inspires can also come out of nowhere and go on to make the PGA tour, and win one of his own.