UCLA's Yang A Long Way From Home
- Championship Central
By Patricia Lee
Going to college is difficult. Teens leave their parents behind and go off to live on their own in a completely new environment surrounded by completely new people. Now imagine having to do that at the age of fourteen.
That is exactly what Glory Yang, now a senior at UCLA, had to do. Nine years ago, she left her parents and three siblings in Korea and came to the United States by herself to pursue her golf and educational dreams in Temecula, Calif.
"I came because although athletes in Korea can get education, the trend in Korea was that if you were an athlete, you would just do your sport," said Yang. "My parents didn't want that and I didn't want it, so we decided to move me here."
By the age of fourteen, Glory Yang had the Pacific Ocean separating her from her parents. It was hard for her to adapt at first, but she had previously been at a golf academy in Korea and only saw her parents on weekends. She entered the Korean Golf Academy when she started golf at the age of twelve. With the move to California, there was an eleven-hour airplane commute, so she did not have the luxury to see her her family very often.
Yang grew up with the generation of golfers the media labels "Se-Ri's Kids." This refers to the revolutionary South Korean golfer Se-Ri Pak, who changed the golf world forever. In 1998, rookie Se-Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship as a rookie, after a twenty-hole playoff. Her iconic moment came when she took her socks and shoes off to get a golf ball out of the shallow waters. She became the youngest golfer ever to win the LPGA Championship, and the first Asian woman to achieve this feat.
Since Se-Ri Pak's incredible victory, the door opened to many other young Asian women to succeed in golf. In fact, many of the leaderboards in LPGA tournaments today are filled with Asian golfers, particularly Koreans.
Yang did not start playing golf because of Pak, but because her dad loved the sport and wanted her to do it. However, she definitely acknowledges the significance that Pak had on the sport.
"I didn't realize how significant that tournament was for Korean golfers at first," said Yang. "But a lot of girls started golf because of her. She did have an influence on us."
Yang played golf in the junior circuit, competing in AJGA tournaments and USGA tournaments before coming to UCLA. She attended a golf academy in Temecula but did not play for her high school team. Many schools noticed her performance in these tournaments, but Yang was only interested in schools in California. UCLA won the recruiting battle and landed Yang.
"I liked Coach Forsyth the most because she was the most approachable and friendly," said Yang. "But I also knew most of the golfers here, whereas I only knew a couple players at the other schools. Golf is kind of a tight community because you see familiar faces at tournaments."
Having some familiar faces around certainly made Yang's transition into college a bit easier.
"It wasn't too difficult because my teammates are always there," said Yang. "If I was going to college alone, without knowing anyone, it would've been really hard, but thankfully I knew most of my teammates before I came here. It was just the class part that was brutal for me."
Yang is pursuing an economics degree at UCLA, and she has to squeeze difficult classes between hours of practice. During the season, she practices five days a week, for four hours each day.
Now, as a senior, she faces the future with memories and plans. Most of all, Yang will miss golf and the support that the teammates give each other.
"Golf is such an individual sport, but as soon as you go to college and have teammates, it totally changes the dynamic," said Yang. "It becomes a team sport."
Yang had to grow up fast in the wake of being sent to the United States alone. Nevertheless, she has no regrets.
"I was so lucky to have this opportunity," said Yang. "Even though it was hard for me, if I had to choose all over again, I would do the same thing."
Yang is reaching a fork in the road. Upon graduation, she must choose between finding a job in the United States and going back to Korea to be with her family. The choice is not easy for her.
Yang has been away from her family for such a long time. When she left Korea, her two older sisters were adolescents and her younger brother was only five.
Now that they are all older, Yang realizes how much they mean to her. Whatever she chooses to do, there are five people in Korea, her parents and three siblings, who are waiting for her to come home.