Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I Wish I Could Be Thankful For: American Himarts

For those who are wondering why there are so many great Korean women golfers, Yoon Chul from the Korea Times has one answer: corporate support of player development. Electronics retailer Himart's team--which was lead by Ji-Yai Shin and now includes So Yeon Ryu, Sun Ju Ahn, and Bo Mi Lee among its 17 members--has won almost half the tournaments on the KLPGA over the past 3 years. Himart president Jong-Koo Sun's strategy, implemented since 2002, is simple:

My idea was based on helping and finding young potential so low income golfers can play without worrying about money.... Our goal is to develop kids, not to advertise our company or use them for marketing, so personality is more important than their abilities.... Our aim is definitely to find new golfers and help them improve into excellent players. Even if they move on to the LPGA, we support them until they can support themselves.

Sun, meanwhile, gives a lot of credit to the Korean work ethic and parental involvement. But Chul stresses that Himart has created a family atmosphere where effort is underwritten and achievement is rewarded. LPGA Rookie of the Year and 1st-ever Korean money-list leader Ji-Yai Shin certainly benefitted from her time on the Himart team:

"When Shin became a professional, she could not find a sponsor. But we had liked her for a long time because of her personality. Shin smiled a lot and earned the nickname 'Smile Angel,' even though she came from a tough family environment."

"Young golfers who have strong abilities but who also smile and have a good personality: that is the type of person we are looking for," the 62-year-old president said.

The Himart boss recalled one particular story about Shin that showed just how hard she works.

"Once while I was playing in a pro-am with Lorena Ochoa I heard that she trained for eight hours every day. Shin astonished me when she replied that she trains for over 10 hours every day," Sun said.

While Shin didn't fit Sun's search for big hitters who putt aggressively, he was willing to go out on a limb for the precision player when nobody else was.

Although Seoul's Happy Fan was too nice to mention it when he linked to Chul's article, one key question arises from it: where are the American counterparts to Sun and Himart? Seeing American corporations offer comparable levels of support to a wide range of American women is something I hope to be thankful for in the coming years.

1 comment:

KickinFamily said...

Good article! Although you consistently refer to the company as "Himark" in your text...

- Chigger