Korean Work Ethic on LPGA


I’m not quite sure I understand the long hours the Korean contingent puts in out here. I’ve witnessed the practice regimen for two weeks now and it’s impressive as well as depressing. The Korean fathers control their daughters; I have an eerie feeling when I watch the father and daughter interaction.

The week started at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. We did nine holes before the Monday pro-am, the first time I’ve done that in my twenty years on tour. Mondays are usually reserved for travel, relaxing, and doing laundry unless you’ve missed the previous cut and are in the pro-am. Our Monday ended at 5:00 p.m. and included two trips to the practice tee, father shadowing his daughter every step of the way. I sure wish I could understand Korean, I’d like to know what he’s mumbling as he shakes his finger at his daughter and scowls.

M.J. slept in Tuesday, we met at 8:00 a.m. played eighteen holes and practiced until about six. There were a couple of long breaks during the day, but I could tell she was tired and her dad insisted she keep practicing. In golf, there are definitely diminishing returns when you practice while you are tired. Most players go to the range with something definite to work on; the Koreans just go to hit balls. I continually ask M.J. what she’s working on and she tells me “nothing, I’m just hitting balls.”

Rochester, NY is one of those sleepy golf towns and the turnout, despite the weather, was great. The LPGA has been coming here for years and the community definitely supports the tournament. I was shacked up at the Dorkat, a so-so mom and pop motel without a car, but the tournament provided courtesy transportation every day, something other venues do not offer for the caddies. Peggy, the motel owner, had a nice hot dog cook out one night, and they even did our laundry for a small fee.

Wednesday I was told to show up at eleven, but found out from some other caddies M.J. and her father played nine holes before the pro-am. It was her dad’s idea, I’m not sure what they hoped to accomplish. I felt slighted but appreciated the extra sleep. I realized, after talking with some experienced LPGA caddies, my suspicions were true. According to a couple caddies, the father’s identity was solely based on how their daughters played golf. If daughter missed the cut, dad had to be subservient to any father whose daughter was playing on the weekend.

A few caddies were threatened when they refused to look the other way after a rules infraction. Supposedly there were a few fathers tied up with the Korean Mafia and things got a bit tense. A couple of fathers were suspended because of their behavior and there were a couple of child abuse reports. My brother mentioned he drove by a courtesy car once and noticed the father screaming violently as daughter was cowering in the passenger seat. Hopefully those days are over but you can definitely sense some awkward feelings among the players.

We played well Thursday and struggled through our long, rain-delayed Friday. We didn’t finish our round Thursday and had to be back in position at 7:00 a.m. Friday. Those long practice days caught up with M.J., she was tired and we struggled big time; she was lucky to finish. I continually forced water down her and made her walk in the shade whenever possible. We finished around 6:00 p.m. at three under and her father wanted her to practice some more. He gestured toward the range and mumbled some coarse Korean, but I said no and convinced M.J. she needed rest. Dad wasn’t happy with me, but I didn’t care. This girl has a lot of talent; hopefully dad won’t burn her out.

Saturday was another long day with a couple of extended weather delays. We plodded along making a few birdies and bogies, and after bogies on 14 and 15 she sucked it up, birdied 16 and eagled 17. Dad still had nothing good to say after the round and while we spent an hour on the range. M.J. was all smiles because we were going to play with her hero Se Ri Pak the next day.

I spent Sunday comparing the young phenom with the Hall of Fame golfer. Certain people have an aura; Se Ri is one of those individuals. Her walk, talk, mannerisms all have a purpose; she was totally focused the entire round. I saw those qualities when I worked for Raymond and when I was lucky enough to be in Jack’s group. Hopefully M.J. learned a bit from Se Ri; I sure did.

It was a long, but profitable week; we finished tied for 22nd I think. I’m not afraid of hard work as long as it’s productive. Maybe we’ll find a happy medium so my young phenom doesn’t waste all her energy early in the week. Long Mondays create little pay on Sundays. We’re off to Toledo and she wants to practice early Monday then play a practice round after the pro-am. We’ll see.

Take care.

Mark

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