Viet Nam News
by Robert Bicknell
Recently, some people on LinkedIn were bemoaning the fact that Malaysia had few, if any, professional players on the major Tours, but this applies to most Asian countries as well, and not surprisingly, the reasons are pretty much the same.
Let me also qualify my statement by saying this is about male professionals, not the ladies because Korean and Japanese females have dominated on the LPGA for a long time, and even now China is making strong inroads as well.
So, why can Asian lady professional golfers make it big in the US while Asian males cannot?
First of all, most of the top Asian ladies went to university in the US, so they were exposed to some of the top coaches in the US. Colleges and universities in the US take their sports quite seriously and there is big money involved, so they employ the best coaches they can find.
Secondly, by playing on the university teams, they are exposed to the US style of golf, the courses and the culture. In addition, they competed against most of the same players they would later see on the LPGA Tour. Four years in the US also means they pretty much feel at home anywhere in the country. This is a big issue for many foreign players.
For example, when I took Viet Nam’s first national golf team to the SEA Games in Brunei, the kids were terrified they would not find anything they could eat, so one sponsor donated a few cases of instant noodles as a backup. Imagine their delight when they discovered Brunei Airlines sponsored a food court the size of a football field with every type of food imaginable and open 24 hours a day.
Yes, they ate like hell and Nguyen The Vinh (aka “Vandal”) earned himself a new nickname: “Double Lunch”.
So, local knowledge and comfort with the surroundings does play a major part in success overseas, but not many of the Asian golf professionals go to university in the US, so they are denied this advantage.
Secondly, the kids learning golf in Asia are usually from rich families and their parents want their sons to study hard in university to become businessmen, doctors, lawyers, or to take over the family business. They don’t want their kids to waste their time on a profession like golf which has a very low chance of actually making it to the big Tours, and even if they did, the chance of being a rich superstar is quite small.
If the kid comes from a poor family and manages to hook up with a golf teacher who sees potential in him and offers to teach for free, once he earns himself a golf scholarship to university in the US, you can bet the parents will still want him to go into business afterwards. So, for the poorer kids, golf offers the possibility of a university education, but they probably will not stay in golf afterwards.
There are a lot of active Asian professional golfers, but they prefer to stay home and earn a moderate living and be a “big fish in a very small pond” rather than take a chance to go overseas. Why risk losing face?
Most of us remember big name Thai professional (who I will not name) who was an amateur powerhouse on the golf circuit and a really good kid. He had every top university recruiting him, but he chose the Asian Tour instead because too many people got into his head. “Why go overseas and waste four years at university when you can make money now” they said.
If he went to the US, he might be a star on the PGA Tour now. This was a complete waste of talent, but it follows the mindset of most male Asian professionals who are either afraid to reach for the brass ring or have family obligations.
Some quack about clubs not helping with discounts, but that is not true. Most clubs and the teaching professionals are willing to help anyone who shows desire and potential.
The bottom line is that, there are avenues to get on the Tour, but you have to earn it and not be afraid to take risks.
As the British SAS motto says: “Who Dares Wins”. — VNS