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From farmer's son to Asian golfing icon
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14:38, August 19, 2009

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Baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball. YE Yang played them all as a child.

Everything but golf, considered a sport of the elite, with green fees costing several hundred dollars a round.

So it wasn't until he was 19 that Yang, the son of vegetable farmers, picked up an iron at the country club where he took a low-paying job scooping up golf balls. Practising late into the night after patrons had gone, he soon became good enough to turn pro.

His father was not impressed.

"Golf is for rich people. Why are you trying to become a golfer? Please don't do it," Yang Han-joon recalled begging his son, the fourth of eight children.

Funny how things turn out.

The 37-year-old Yang, who was in PGA Tour qualifying school nine months ago, became the first Asian-born man to capture a major title with a series of spectacular shots on the back nine of Hazeltine.

Even more memorable was the guy he beat to win the PGA tournament - Tiger Woods. It was the first time golf's No 1 player lost a major while atop the leaderboard going into the final round.

Just like that, a player ranked No 110 in the world became the pride of a golf-crazy nation, as well as the toast of a continent.

"Congratulations to Yang Yong-eun for being the first Asian to win the PGA!" read hastily made banners hanging at the Ora Country Club on the resort island of Jeju, where Yang's family lives.

The island, famous for its waterfalls, volcanoes, seafood and sunshine, is a popular honeymoon spot and in recent years has become a luxury golf destination.

Yang's father admits trying to pressure his son to join him in the fields.

"I had no idea what golf was - that's why I was opposed to golf," he told The Associated Press during an interview interrupted every few minutes by calls from well-wishers.

But Yang's mother, Ko Hee-soon, said Yang was always determined to leave their tough life behind.

"When we urged him to go into farming, he would say: 'I'm not going to live like my father'," she recalled, beaming. Ko said they would throw a party to celebrate his victory, which came shortly after sunrise Monday from half a world away in Chaska, Minn.

Yang, now married with three sons, has earned more than $3.2 million on the tour, including $1.35 million for the PGA Championship.

His older brother, Yang Yong-hyuk, was up all night watching Yang on TV.

"I am so happy and proud of him. What else can I feel?" he said. "Since he has finally reached the peak, I hope that he will work even harder to become better and defend his position."

Golf coach Kim Won-jun, 43, said Yang's nerves of steel set him apart from other players.

"I personally know Yang and what distinguishes him from other players is his emotional stability," he said. "He is in total control during his game, so when he has the chance, he's able to immediately seize it."

Source: China Daily

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