Volume 5, Number 5, July 18, 2007

Jeong Jang Interview

Pages 1, 2, 3, Gallery
Here is an interview I conducted with Korean golf superstar Jeong Jang at the 2006 Safeway Classic. Enjoy!

SeoulSisters.com: OK, we'll start from the beginning: when did you start playing golf?
Jeong Jang: When I was thirteen I believe, yeah.
SS: Thirteen? Wow, that's late! So, did you do sports before that?
JJ: I skated a bit, but I wasn't seriously into sports. I skied a little bit in the Winter, and I didn't do anything (else).
SS: When you started golf, was it just for fun, or were you right away…
JJ: Hmm… Actually, I was kinda (just doing it to) have fun for a couple years. And one or two years later, I (became) really serious... and I went to a lot of junior tournaments. And I felt really good, and I wanted to get more serious because I was playing really (well). So, I was kinda (playing for) fun for one or two years.
SS: How did you do in the first tournament you ever played?
JJ: First tournament? I can remember everything! I had played six months, and I played my first tournament after (that). Rainy day. Really bad weather. And I shot one-one-six. One hundred sixteen! And you know, the second tournament I played, seven months later, the next year… I shot an 84.
SS: Wow! So, after that first tournament, you wanted to spend a few months practicing before you did the second one?
JJ: Umm… Kind of, yeah.
SS: How many people did you beat at that first tournament?
JJ: First tournament? In the tournaments, we were separated (between) middle school and high school. But then they put the scores together. I believe there were four or five people behind me! (laughs)
SS: Wow. That's quite a difference, isn't it (between now and then)?
JJ: I want to say that there were one hundred fifty kids in front of me! (laughs).
SS: (laughs). So there was a real improvement after that!
JJ: Yeah!
SS: So, at what point did you start to think you were good enough to be a professional?
JJ: You know, honestly, I really didn't think about (being a) professional… I (didn't) want to go professional because I'm not really a big person, and I couldn't really hit it far. So when I was sixteen or eighteen, when I was thinking about if I wanted to go professional, and I would think, hmmm, (I should become a golf) teacher instead.

SS: Really?
JJ: Mm hmm. Because I don't think I'm very… When you get out there, the people are big, and they hit it very far. So I really didn't think I wanted to be a professional. But at that time… do you know Alison Nicholas?
SS: Uh huh.
JJ: She won the US (Women's) Open in 1997.
SS: 97. Yeah, that's right! Over at Pumpkin Ridge (near where the interview is taking place).
JJ: Uh huh. She won that tournament, and then one or two months later, she came to Korea. She was invited by a sponsor, and she played a tournament there. So, I went there to watch her. And… she's almost my size! She's actually a few inches smaller than me… So I followed her for two days, and I watched everything, and she hit it so far, she hit it straight. Even though she's a smaller player! So then I decide - actually, my dad decided (laughs) - you can do it!
SS: That's great!
JJ: Thought I'd try a couple years, see if I might do it. And it's been seven years already!
SS: Wow.
JJ: I think I'm doing (well)!
SS: You're doing really well! So, did you know about Mi Hyun Kim at the time? Was she a professional at that point?
JJ: Mm hmm.
SS: She's also about your size, right?
JJ: Uh huh. But you know, everybody can't be, everybody can't win the tournament. It doesn't matter, big or short, it's just a word. But I don't want to be here (the United States), and be a loser, you know…
SS: In America, but the worst player…
JJ: Right. I can spend a lot of money (trying to be a pro)… it's scary when I thought I might be a professional, you know. (It was) hard to decide at this time.
SS: It sounds like you wanted to go to America the whole time. You didn't want to play in Korea as a professional?
JJ: You know, not really, half and half. I wanted to be in Korea a couple of years, but in the future…everybody (playing in Korea) wants to be on the big tour now, not on the little tour (in Korea). Everyone wants to be the number one player in the world. That has to (happen) here, not in Korea. So, yeah, I decided I wanted to be here.
SS: Did you play on the KLPGA?
JJ: No, I played here first. I joined the LPGA first, then a couple months later I went to Korea and went to (their) Q-School.
SS: Wow, that's interesting. You played some events in Korea, but not many?
JJ: Mm hmm. We have to play two tournaments a year (in Korea to maintain status on the KLPGA).

SS: Ah, OK. I found an article from several years ago, where Se Ri Pak talked about how she knew you. I don't know if this is true. Did you know her when you were growing up? (Se Ri and JJ both come from the same city, Daejeon).
JJ: Of course! Se Ri and I… it was just five minutes between her house and my house when I was young. She and my sister went to the same school, and they were friends when they were young. And we practiced a lot… we practiced a lot on the same golf courses for three, four years.
SS: I want to read something to you. This is what she said about when she used to know you…
JJ: She said it?
SS: This is from an article she wrote for Joong Ang Ilbo. She said:

"Especially one remains in my memory. She is Jeong Jang, who lived near my house. She attracted my attention all the more because she was also a friend of my younger sister's. She stood out among the juniors and seemed to have a lot of pride and fighting spirit. She seemed sick and tired of my punishment and scolding. She didn't obey me and we considered each other dead for one year. She might have just been waiting for a chance. When I returned to Korea in August, 1997, I reconciled with her and played rounds with her. She had improved a lot. I had heard she had won the Korean Women's Open as a High School student for the first time in the history of the KLPGA."

Was she really hard on you? Was she tough to you when you were younger?
JJ: You know, it wasn't just her. I don't know if you know about the lifestyle… I think Koreans… Not just Koreans, I think Japanese are the same… Koreans, you really think about the older people... for example, Se Ri, she is three years older than I am, and we have to think of her as a different age, like, an older person… We can't really say, like, that she and I are friends. Friends are the same age in Korea. I have to say 'onni', which means older sister. I can't call her friend. A little bit like (inaudible)… Somebody's older than me, everybody's tough.
SS: She has to treat you badly cause…
JJ: She's not really bad… But she's older, and that's not really comfortable (to be my friend).

SS: You played a lot of team events for Korea. You played on the Pinx Cup… Talk about the Pinx Cup for a minute.
JJ: Pinx Cup… I love that tournament... because I love team golf. When I was young… well, not really young, but before the tour… I really wished that we could have a team tournament, Korea against somebody… the US. It's only been like seven, six years, the Pinx Cup. It's really fun. You don't have to think about each other when you think about team. That's a really good tournament, I think. Because, you know, sometimes you have to play singles, in (regular golf)… I don't like it sometimes, because sometimes I play good and my friends don't play good. It hurts me, like, aww…. But when you play team tournaments, you don't have to worry about anything. You think about the team. We're having a lot of fun when we play team tournaments. We go out and talk and have a lot of fun.
SS: Do you find it easier, or harder to play on a team? Do you feel pressure?
JJ: No pressure. That's why I play good. No pressure.
SS: Interesting. When I talked to Grace Park, she said she felt more pressure when she was on a team because she was representing Korea instead of just herself.
JJ: Hmm… Not really.
SS: No? You like it.
JJ: I like it.
SS: So when you played the Lexus Cup last year, you and Meena Lee had to play Annika (Sorenstam) and Paula Creamer. What was that like? You actually played pretty well!
JJ: I think we played pretty good. I think we shot like four or five under or something, and Paula … (laughs)… she hit everything right at the hole. They won by two, three up or something. I had a really good time, actually. Even though we lost, like, a lot of (the matches), it was really fun. We played alternate shot, I play first hole (first), Meena plays second hole…we never really play that kind of play in Korea. Kind of fun… Really new stuff. I had a really fun time, but you got to get used to it! (laughs). We're going to get better.
SS: So are you going to play this year (if you are asked)?
JJ: I'm going to say, half and half. I think… You know, it wasn't really fair last year. I don't want to say we had a lot of bad players, but I don't think we had (a lot of) good players either. Like, if somebody picks right players, I want to go. But, if somebody picks… makes it unfair, I don't want to go. We want to be there to win, not take second. So, I'm just half and half right now. But I'm going to definitely play Pinx.
SS: Ah, good! (JJ did not play the 2006 Lexus Cup as it turned out, but did play in the Pinx Cup).

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