was the right thing to do.”
Yang’s victory was an affirmation of that
decision. And it was a prelude to another
development that could trigger a more
intense explosion at the global level: golf
being included as an Olympic sport in 2016.
Steranka says the timing of Yang’s win
followed by the International Olympic
Committee’s vote on golf in October “was a
dramatic 1-2 sequence for the game.”
“That really pushed the sport of golf more
global than it ever was before,” Steranka says.
Woods was among the people who thought golf’s inclusion was overdue.
“I think that golf is truly a global sport,
and I think it should have been in the
Olympics a while ago,” says Woods. “I
think it will be great for golf and especially
some of the other smaller countries that are
now emerging in golf.”
Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice-
president for International Affairs, led the
charge to get golf in the Olympics. He
already saw the impact during a trip last year
to China. He was taken to an enormous
training facility that “went on as far as the
eye could see.” Before golf got into the
Olympics, golfers weren’t allowed to use the
complex. Now they can.
“China had viewed golf as a leisure
activity,” Votaw says. “Now they see it as a
sport. Having that mind shift occur
overnight can only have a positive effect.”
With China’s vast population, the golf
world is bracing for the country to produce
a wave of star golfers. Steranka predicts the
game will see two or three top men’s and
women’s players within the next decade.
Votaw isn’t as sure the progress will be that fast. However, due in part to Yang’s victory and the success of Asian women on the LPGA Tour, he anticipates the Chinese will dedicate themselves to becoming a factor in golf.
“They are driven, prideful people,” Votaw
adds. “They’re going to see what’s going on
in South Korea and Japan, and they’re going
to want to be competitive in golf.”
Other potential emerging golf nations
include India (more than 1 billion in
population) and Brazil, the host country for
the 2016 Olympics. To enhance the growth
of the game in these regions and others, the
World PGAAlliance was formed last year.
Comprised of members from Professional
Golfers’ Associations around the world, the
alliance is designed to share information
and expertise about growing the game to
these emerging nations.
“We’re going to see the ministries of
sport worldwide develop athlete training
programs for golf,” says Steranka. “In the
near-term, those countries will import the
expertise from other countries. Ultimately,
the best approach will be for those
countries to develop their own players. The
World Golf Alliance will help guide those
countries in how to teach the game and
how to best structure youth development.”
The model could be South Korea. The
success of Japanese players such as Jumbo
Ozaki and Isao Aoki spurred South Korea
to teach their young children to become
golfers in the late 1980s and ’90s. The
Korean women, led by Se Ri Pak, went on
to dominate the women’s tour. Yang’s major
victory likely was just the start for Asian
“You’ve seen the golf professional emerge as a profession in South Korea,” Steranka says. “It led to the development of a number of Korean women and the success of K.J. Choi. That performance by Yang put the exclamation point on it.” ●
Ten of the top 15 finishers at the 2009 PGA Championship were international players.
Ed Sherman is a free-lance golf writer based in Highland Park, Ill.
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