Adam Lawrence considers the impact of Yang Yong-eun's USPGA win.
Yang Yong-eun’s victory in the 2009 USPGA Championship couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for golf. At the end of the week in which the game was accepted as an Olympic sport, it signals that the Anglo-American (or perhaps Scottish-American) mindset that has dominated golf for so long is going to have to change.
Going right back to 1971, when the effervescent ‘Mr Lu’, Lu Liang-Huan, almost won the Open Championship, golfers from Japan, Korea, India, Taiwan, and many other Asian countries have become familiar figures in the majors, and have achieved a number of close encounters with the titles. Yang’s achievement in getting across the line, though, could be a symbol of something big.
The number of South Korean golfers in the women’s professional ranks shows that country at least is doing something right. It can’t be coincidental that in Korea, building nine holes of public golf is pretty much necessary for any developer who wants to win planning consent for a private club.
That the game is looking east has become ever more apparent in recent years. Golf courses and resorts have sprung up in Vietnam, China, Thailand, even Mongolia, and, as the golf development business has struggled in the West, so have architects, developers and other industry figures pointed their faces east in the quest for new opportunities. The fact that designers of the stature of Bill Coore and Tom Doak are now working on projects in China suggests a coming maturity for the Asian industry.
And then there is the Olympics. Heralded by figure like Peter Dawson as golf’s best chance for growth, the presence of the game within sport’s greatest festival should see countries around the world aiming to develop new facilities and players. Will Yang soon be followed by Chinese or Indonesian major champions? Don’t bet against it.