See Ri Pak turned a generation of young Koreans on to golf when she won back-to-back majors in 1998. Most of the players who have followed her example have been women, and the face of the LPGA Tour has changed.
But now comes a young male from Korea. Jin Jeong, a 20-year-old amateur, is making a run at the British Open lead in the third round at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Jeong drained a 60-foot eagle putt on No. 5, a 568-yard par 5, that he reached in two, a feat that few have accomplished today. At 7-under through six holes, Jeong is four strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen.
Jeong, ranked No. 1,360 in the world (but not for long), qualified for the tournament when he became the first Asian to win in the 125-year history of the British Amateur. Korean players have captured the world’s three most important amateur tournaments. Byeong-Jun An took the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and Han Chang-Won won the 2009 Asian Amateur to earn a slot in the 2010 Masters.
Last summer at the PGA, Y.E. Yang became the first Asian to win a major championship. But he is age 38, six years older than Pak.
Jeong is bidding to become the first amateur to win since Bobby Jones (1930) and the youngest to prevail since Young Tom Morris, who was 17 years, 5 months old when he captured his first of four straight Open Championships (1868-72), succeeding his father, Old Tom Morris, who won four of the first eight Open titles.