Y.E. Yang’s victory at the 2009 PGA Championship placed an exclamation point on the game’s growth worldwide
THE AIRPORT IN SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, USUALLY IS A QUIET place at 4 a.m. There’s not much activity occurring in the middle of the night. But one night was different last August. Y.E. Yang was returning home from the United States.
By Ed Sherman
Y.E. Yang’s historic win at the 2009 PGA Championship made him the first Asian-born male to win a major.
In his hand, he had a replica of the Wanamaker Trophy he won by stunning Tiger Woods and the golf world during the final round to win the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. The victory triggered a huge celebration in Yang’s home country of South Korea. It was the reason why the airport was buzzing with media before dawn.
“I’ve won in my career a few times in
Japan and in Europe, also in The Honda
Classic on the PGA Tour, but I’ve never had
that kind of reception as I did on my first
visit after my PGA win,” Yang recalls. “All
the reporters were there, and it was 4 in the
morning. Just by that reaction I knew that
it was something big.”
Just how big? PGA of America Chief
Executive Officer Joe Steranka calls Yang’s
title the singular most famous victory in
golf for Asia.
“It reverberated throughout that region
of the world,” Steranka says.
Indeed, by becoming the first men’s player from Asia to win a major, Yang dramatically showed that golf more than ever truly is a global game. All parts of the world are producing high-caliber players who are excelling on the world’s premier stages.
Just look at the winners of recent majors besides Yang: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland won the 2010 U.S. Open; Padraig Harrington of Ireland won the 2008 PGA Championship, plus the 2007 and 2008 Open Championships; Angel Cabrera of Argentina won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters; Trevor Immelman of South Africa won the 2008 Masters.
The world rankings also tell the story. Going into this year’s U.S. Open, there were six international players in the top 10, and 33 in the top 50. By comparison, prior to the 2000 U.S. Open, there were 22 international players in the top 50.
The dramatic shift could also be seen at last year’s PGA Championship. The field included a record 66 international players representing 29 countries, including Italy, Thailand, Colombia, India, Sweden and Japan.
In recent years, The PGA of America reduced the number of PGA Professionals in the field (currently 20) in order make room for the international players.
“The PGA of America felt the rest of the world was catching up with us,” Steranka explains. “If we were going to be true to our mission of inviting the best players in the world, we needed those additional spots. It wasn’t a popular decision with the club professionals we serve, but we thought it
THE PGA OF AMERICA
46 THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP