Recently, a strange controversy between a couple of Korean lady golfers has been indicative of the curiously intertwined relationships many golfers have with their parents. Ha Na Jang’s father has been accused of dropping a suitcase on her rival In-Gee Chun and injuring her tailbone. forcing her to withdraw from the tournament. As would be fitting, Ha Na Jang and her family have reached out to apologize in In-Gee Chun for the mishap. But from the offender himself, there has been not a regretful word. It’s a plot worthy of any TV soap, but you’ll find that overly involved parents remain entrenched in the golf world, even long after their children become adults.
Whose parents were way too hardcore?
Jordan Spieth’s laid-back mom seems to be an exception in the golf world. While she never needed to push her motivated son to practice on the course, lots of other parents of golfers are the reason the children grow up living and breathing the game. A notable example is Earl Woods, who never allowed his son Tiger to utter a single word during practice.
In the meantime, he would distract the boy by walking within his line of sight while he was putting and banging clubs together, giving Tiger a safe word if it ever became too much. Other familiar faces were just as harangued by their parents growing up. Michelle Wie’s father BJ Wie had such lofty ambitions for his daughter that he requested that she be allowed to compete with grown men in the PGA Tour when she was a teenager.
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LPGA golfer Christina Kim’s dad Man Kim apparently forced her to make 500 swings a month before he even allowed her to hit a ball. He’s also known for telling her she looks fat in light colors and threatening to fire her from any drop in performance. The most heartbreaking case of all is that of Beverly Klass, who is the reason the LPGA has a minimum age of 18. Dad John Klass pushed her to join the LPGA when she was 10 and would regularly beat her if she failed to meet his standards. He once slapped her in public for making a joke about a double-bogey. Talk about Daddy Dearest…
Why Asian golfers are owning the LPGA
If you were horrified by this, you might be aghast to discover that some Asian golfers don’t think these Western parents are being hard enough on their kids. There has been a notable surge in Asian dominance in the golf circuit, with 60 of the top 100 women golfers originating from the continent. If you asked them about the key to their success, one common thread would be their strict parents. World’s No. 6 Shanshan Feng is grateful to her parents for putting her nose to the grind from an early age and advises Western parents follow suit.
Source: Wojciech Migda/Wikimedia Commons
“Our parents would push us so hard. If you want to become a professional they make sure you practice so many hours per day and watch you do this.
“But in other places, like America and Europe, parents don’t push players as much growing up. We spend more time on our games when we’re young and so, when we turn 18, we’ve already been playing for at least 10 years.”
South Korean Seo Hee-Kyung has expressed similar sentiments about her own parents, who also pushed her onto the course during her tenderest years.
Source: Wojciech Migda/Wikimedia Commons
“Good players have always worked hard, but from young we get used to competing with a lot of pressure and in difficult situations. It helps a lot, especially when Western players are just enjoying the game when they are 13 or 14.
“They’re still searching for their future, are not 100 per cent sure in what they want to do. But in Korea, we put everything into it from a young age, around 10 or 11.”
You can’t ignore the clear pride they take in this very Asian tradition of raising children up for success. Admittedly, this “Tiger” parenting is what has been earning Asians a reputation of being gifted overachievers and we’re not surprised that this same principle is availing them well in golf. As any player can tell you, practice, laser focus and a consistent temperament is crucial to any chance of making it big. Because so many of these players become accustomed to disappointment and hard work when they are very young, they are much less rattled when the stakes are much higher and winning doesn’t come easy.
How to parent
Ultimately, we think it is important for golfers to have good role models. While someone from Asia may disagree with someone from the West on what that means, we feel that there are some clear ways to distinguish one. Always be sure you are pushing your children for them, not for you. If parents see that their children are gifted in a certain area, it is a wonderful thing to encourage their talents and teach them the virtues of hard work and resilience when they are still impressionable. Be as firm as your child can handle, but always remain loving and supportive of their needs and individuality. The moment parents start living vicariously through their children is the moment pushing your children is in danger of verging on abuse.
John Klass did not strike his daughter Beverly for her own good, no matter what he might say. And when Ha Na Jang’s father is hurting his daughter’s reputation by injuring her opponents, you know that his ambitions come more out of a selfish need for control than genuine concern for her wellbeing. If you have a child you’re nursing PGA-bound ambitions for, we’d urge you to be honest with yourself about why. Do you think Junior has a great swing for a two-year old? Or are you just hoping he’ll be the PGA star you never were in your youth? Trust us, you will save yourself and your entire family a lot of heartbreak if you do.