There are many factors that contribute to a tour’s popularity with fans. There is no doubt that one of them is the emergence of star players. This year, the two hottest players on the Korean men’s and women’s professional golf tours are Chung 스포츠토토 Chan-min (24) and Bang Shin-sil (19). Both of them hit ultra-long shots, which is rare for Korean players, and that’s what attracts fans.
Imagine if they were just distance players, they’d probably only be temporarily ‘interesting’ instead of ‘popular’. Fortunately, they have other performance abilities that make the most of their strengths. A star is a player who can consistently compete for victories regardless of the course setting. That’s why a recent Facebook post by KPGA president Koo Ja-cheol is so poignant. He said, “My belief is that once a domestic tournament becomes popular, it must be fun. Always getting lost in the hazards. Setting up short holes that bounce. Deep rough where you can’t even see your ball.” In short, it’s my view that the course should be easy to set up so that players can shoot good scores.
All professional tournament course settings are entirely up to the tournament committee. In some cases, the organizers or golf courses have some input, but it is extremely limited.
“Professional Choi Kyung-joo said, ‘If you want to compete on the world stage, you have to make (course settings) difficult,’ but the U.S. and other countries already have a fan culture where men are very popular,” Koo wrote on Facebook during the SK Telecom Open, which ended on Nov. 21. Koo went one step further and said that making the course harder would make it “harder” for the players. This is in line with complaints from some of the older players who are nearing the end of their careers on the Senior Tour.
Koo also posted the following interview with Park Min-ji. “In Korea, I feel like I just need to hit my shots and putts well. But in the U.S., the grass is different, and I feel like there are a lot of things that are lacking, such as my short game, so I think I need to go to the U.S. every once in a while to remind myself.”
Nowhere in Park’s interview does he suggest that setting up a course should be easy. Rather, the point is that if you want to compete on the world stage, you need to go to the U.S. tournaments to wake up and work harder.
It’s not that Korean men’s golf lacks stars. On the contrary, it is full of them. Choi Kyung-ju and Yang Yong-eun, among others, are active on the PGA Tour.
The solution for men’s golf to be loved by fans shouldn’t be to set up easier courses, as Koo said. Instead, I hope that they will focus on measures to utilize star players to accelerate the renaissance of men’s golf as soon as possible.