Whats Next for YE Yang

By Rich LernerAugust 17, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Michael Yim, son of a Korean diplomat, was pondering the possibility that he might need to use the tools of his fathers profession to talk his suddenly very famous client out of an idea hes in love with.
 
I want to open an indoor driving range in Dallas, where I just moved with my family, Y.E. Yang told me as we sat for an interview after hed won the PGA Championship. It would be like the ones we have back in Korea. Dallas gets so hot so this would be a good place.
 
Will you name the range, Y.E. Yangs Indoor Driving Range, with small lettering underneath that reads, the Man Who Beat Tiger? I asked.
 
Y.E. Yang hoists the Wanamaker Trophy
Y.E. Yang hoists the Wanamaker Trophy after his PGA Championship win. (Getty Images)
His interpreter relayed the thought, and Yang broke into that big smile of his.
 
I dont think so, Yang said politely. I was thinking about a Korean word that means harmony.
 
Yim, Yang's agent, has other ideas but concedes that it is Yangs money and naturally he can do what he wants with it.
 
Yang instantly becomes Asias biggest golf star with his triumph at Hazeltine National. Yim said the victory was one of the greatest achievements in Korean sports history. Others include: wrestler Jung-Mo Yeng winning the nations first gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal; Se Ri Pak taking the U.S. Womens Open and the McDonalds LPGA Championship in 1998; and South Korea beating Cuba to win the World Baseball Classic last year.
 
I inquired about the size of the windfall that should come to Yang.
 
Its so unfortunate. He won at such a bad time for the economy. The value of his win is way up here, Yim said, holding his hand as high as he could above his head. But the market is down here, and now he bent over and put a hand near the ground. The challenge for me is going to be to bring that market up to meet this incredible win.
 
Yang is scheduled to take this coming week off. It wont really be a week off, Yim said with a laugh. There will be a flood of media requests and possibly a trip to Carlsbad, Calif., for the TaylorMade National Sales Conference.
 
Yang will then play The Barclays outside New York, which like Los Angeles, has a large Korean population.
 
Theres also a verbal agreement between Yangs camp and a Korean bank sponsoring a tournament in October back in his homeland.
 
We may have some leverage, Yim said with a wry grin.
 
I traveled to Korea with Pak after she won the two majors 11 years ago. She was overwhelmed with parades, appearances at the presidential palace, visits to schools and sadly, a visit to the hospital because of exhaustion.
 
Yang could face a similar reception when he returns in a few months. As Yim spoke his phone kept buzzing and he was expecting a call from his countrys leader at any moment. This could be the president of Korea right here, he would say, only to find it was someone else calling to congratulate or ask about an interview.
 
Half his life ago Yang, now 37, did not conceive of this. He didnt even play golf until he was 19.
 
He didnt know anything about the sport, Yim explained. He was into working out and lifting weights.
 
But then he fell down a flight of stairs and tore his ACL. He couldnt lift anymore.
 
A friend recommended he work at a local driving range, Yim said. The range had a room where Kim actually lived for a few months.
 
He became what they call in Korea a semi-pro. And when he found out you could get paid for playing, Yang thought, Ill try that.
 
The rest is hard-to-fathom, stuff-of-movies history.
 
Yang is the son of a farmer, one of seven children. Hes now married with three kids of his own.
 
Hes laid back, said Yim. He has a good sense of humor. Its a shame that people dont really see that side of him because of the language barrier.
 
Yim likes the funny faces and goofy jokes. Yangs different than his countryman, K.J. Choi.
 
K.J. is all about walking the right path, said Yim. It shows in his routine. He prays before his round, works out and goes to the practice tee. Hes quite regimented.
 
Yang, on the other hand, likes to have fun and maybe a beer. If Yang has a late tee time, he might sleep until 10 and then have breakfast. He doesnt want to waste energy.
 
Most golfers are so picky, Yim explained. They can be difficult to deal with. But Y.E. is kind of what you call an Average Joe. And that caught me off guard. Even now I cant capture what just happened.
 
Yangs easygoing, but confident, too. He doesnt let anything bother him, Yim said. That was apparent Sunday, chipping in at 14 and hitting the 3-hybrid that will be recalled as one of the greatest shots of this or any year.
 
He played with the attitude that he had nothing to lose. If I win, its a bonus, said Yang.
 
The sight of Yang lifting the golf bag over his head is priceless. Colleague Steve Sands joked that it looked like a guy hoisting the Stanley Cup.
 
I asked Yang if he could describe in one word, in English, what hed just done.
 
He smiled, and said, Unbelievable.
 
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