Turning your dreams into reality. Now, let's hear the story of golf player Lee Kyu-Min, who has won the sole qualifying ticket given to an amateur player for THE CJ CUP @NINE BRIDGES.
"The CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES,
the Korea's first ever PGA Tour,
is a stage of glory.
The dream came true.”
You are a welcome addition for many golf fans awaiting 'THE CJ CUP @NINE BRIDGES'. Please give us a brief introduction of yourself.
My name is Lee Kyu-Min. I am a sophomore at Shinseong High School. Many people have cheered and congratulated me since my attendance at the CJ CUP tournament was confirmed. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for them.
You won the JDX Championship presented by CJ O Shopping in July as well as the 28th Sports Chosun All-Korean Middle and High School Golf Tournament. As a result, you are now qualified to play in the CJ CUP tournament as the sole amateur player. You also received a lot of attention as the second player to have been confirmed to play in the tournament. What do you think of all this?
At first, I couldn’t believe what happened. It is a great honor for me, an amateur, to be given the opportunity to play in a PGA event. I had always dreamed of playing in a PGA event, but I envisioned it as being part of the distant future. So I could not believe that the opportunity has now been given to me. In addition, I found out only after applying for the tournament that its winner becomes qualified to play in the CJ CUP. Even at the time, I told myself, “How on earth can an amateur possibly play in a PGA event?”. The moment I was confirmed to play in the CJ Cup still feels like a dream to me. But that dreamy event is now a reality. I received so much support and encouragement from the people around me as well. I feel like I'm still dreaming.
THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES,
the path to your dream stage
THE CJ CUP is just around the corner. How are you getting ready for it?
Recently, I went to plays practice rounds on Jeju Island. Nowadays, I am in school in the morning and go to the driving range for practice immediately after. My back injury has not fully healed yet, so I refrain from attempting long shots and instead focus on playing my short game during my practice sessions. Last year, the injury didn’t hurt like this much, but the pain got worse this year. Naturally, injuries are the most sensitive issue to any players. I am determined to get through this, with my focus on doing all that I can do now.
Not every 18-year-old has a daily schedule of heading straight to a driving range for strenuous training after school. Doesn’t it exhaust you?
Sometimes it is quite hard for me, but I do not dwell too much on the thought of it being hard. Because I am doing this because I want to, not because someone is telling me to do it. I found my passion earlier than my peers. To do what I like to do better, I have to keep going despite the difficulties I experience in the process.
When and how did you start golf?
I started playing golf during the winter break when I was a third grader in elementary school. My older cousin is a professional golf player. I happened to tag along with him to a driving range and watched him play golf. Watching him play, I thought it would be great fun to do it myself. So I told my father one day that I wanted to learn to play golf. At first, my parents thought that I just wanted to try it as a hobby. But as I learned to play golf more and more, I became convinced that the sport really suits me well. The more I played golf, the more it interested me. By the time I was a fifth grader in elementary school, I was already thinking that this should be my lifetime pursuit. At the time, I wasn’t even much better than my peers. In fact, I was on the poor performing side of the spectrum. But despite that, I actively kept my dream alive of winning a tournament as a golf player one day. Of course, the dream is still an ongoing pursuit. I am forging ahead step by step to realize that.
On your way to your dreams,
you always get to cross a bridge that leads to them.
Despite your young age, you have been playing golf for a significant period of time. Tell us about the most difficult and the happiest moments of your golf career so far.
My happiest moment was of course when my attendance at the CJ CUP was confirmed. The fact that I was given the opportunity to play on that dream stage felt so surreal. I had the most difficult time during my sophomore and senior years in middle school. For two consecutive years, I wasn’t able to become a regular on my school team. During that time, I wasn’t really in a slump, but I was in agony because I felt things didn’t turn out the way they should at critical moments. I tend to try to do my best at a given time, not dwelling on difficult or regrettable moments. At the time, I persistently kept doing what I had to, thinking, “It will all work out in the end. Everything will come together as it should in the future.”
Your thoughts and the way that you express yourself makes you come across as being very mature. They convey a calm personality.
I am quite effervescent when I am with my friends on most days. But when I play golf, I try to keep myself calm and poised. In golf, you need to be focused with firm determination throughout the game to yield good results. When your mind is distracted, your shot just shows it. It is a fight against yourself, so to speak. When I play, I am only aware of my score. There is no way for me to know how other players are doing. All my focus needs to be on the shot I am about to hit without thinking about the rankings. And frankly, it’s not like I was a hot favorite to win from the beginning in July’s tournament, which I eventually won. I got the feeling only after I finished my second-last shot that I was going to win.
There must be a lot of moments when you need to keep yourself poised during games or practice. What do you think about at such moments?
I do a lot of breathing on such occasions. It calms down my buoyant, wavering mind. Crisis comes when you least expect it. I beat back anxiety and nervousness by doing the small things that I can do at the moment. Even during games, when it's not my turn to play, I often go to a corner out of the way from people’s eyes and do some stretches. I try not to fall too deep into my thoughts and try to act.
Tell us some of your favorite golf players.
Hideki Matsuyama. His swing is totally dynamic and powerful. I wish I had such a swing, but because my physique is different from his, I try to focus on what I can. And also Choi Kyung-Joo. I personally met him once, and I felt grateful for him because despite being one of the most respected senior players, he treats his juniors in such a friendly manner, even remembering all their names. He is someone I admire and hope to emulate. Kim Si-Woo is a senior student at my school, but I have yet to meet him. He is very good at punch shots, but I personally like his playing style very much. I heard that all three of them will be playing in this installment of the CJ CUP. I'm extremely pumped to play together with these great senior players whom I watched play while growing up as an aspiring golfer with sights on becoming a pro. And that's also what my practice mates are most envious of.
What kind of player do you aspire to be?
I want to be an excellent player both in terms of ability and personality. I hope to grow into a modest and unwavering player by keeping my spirits up and avoiding becoming complacent. Golf is a sport that requires a considerable length of time. You must not lose your pace or make poorly thought out attempts to make the green, while still being able to pull off those clutch moments. I usually try not to get overly excited, but I also have the attributes of being a bit of a showman on the course at the same time. Finding a balance between the two is part of the job.
What do you look forward to the most for this installment of the CJ CUP tournament?
Making it to the CJ CUP tournament alone is a glorious honor. It is the first PGA Tour tournament in Korea, a stage every golf player dreams of. I think that not only amateurs like me but also pros have the same sentiment. In that sense, the CJ CUP is the turning point of my life. I feel like I am standing on a true starting line. I've sworn to myself that I would grow into a really good professional golf player through this tournament. Here's hoping that this tournament will serve as an opportunity for me to gain new experiences and learn many things. Personally, I would like to win the crowd over with some great iron shots. And that's what I am most confident about.
What is your dream now?
My new dream is to debut as a pro player and play again in the CJ CUP. I also hope to attend PGA Tour events regularly. The first goal is to yield good results in the Japanese tour events. Japanese golf is similar to Korean golf, but it provides players with more opportunities to make it to the US than Korean golf. This CJ CUP tournament will serve as a starting point. Playing on the professional stage is a dream I've had for a long time, so I am very happy to be given this great opportunity. I also hope to play in the Masters Tournament one day. As I grew my dreams by watching my seniors play, I sincerely hope that my future self will also encourage young, aspiring players.
You've already achieved your 11-year-old dream of winning a golf tournament. Making a new dream come true will surely not be an easy process. Do you feel that you are up to it?
I know. I will do my best as I've always done.
THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES is
the turning point of my life.
I feel like I am standing on a true starting line.