April 29, 2010
Northwestern's Big Ten Championships Notes Package (PDF Format)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern enters the 2010 Big Ten Championships this weekend, April 30-May 2 in Minneapolis, Minn., coming off a very strong spring season, finishing in the top half of the field in all five of its tournaments and boasting a victory at the second-annual Big Ten Match Play Championship in February.
Perhaps the biggest story for the Wildcats, however, has come away from team play. Sophomore Eric Chun finished second in the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship in October and November, using that effort to springboard himself into the field at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in July.
For Northwestern's complete game notes package for the 2010 Big Ten Championships, download the .pdf at the top of this page. Then continue on and read a feature on Chun and his golfing journey to this point as told to NUsports.com Special Correspondent Skip Myslenski.
He was born in South Korea and, at the age of 5, moved to Malaysia. He moved once again at 14, this time to Australia, and then returned to South Korea two-and-a-half years later for his final years of high school. He arrived at Northwestern in the Fall of '08 and, last spring, went to the Big Ten Championship and emerged as its individual champion. He then, in succession, narrowly missed earning invitations to the 2009 U.S. Open and the 2010 Masters. But last month, two days after his 20th birthday and on a course in Malaysia he once played as a child, he did earn a spot in the British Open that will be played in July at famed St. Andrew's in Scotland. That is the back story of 'Cat sophomore Eric Chun, who in his mind is four holes from finishing that qualifying tourney as he sits down with NUSports.com Special Correspondent Skip Myslenski and goes On The Record. . .
Before I putted on the 15th green, there was a leader board by the green and I could see there were three guys done at five under. I was four under. I went, "Man, I need to pick up one or two birdies coming in."
I birdied 15. I made an eight-footer. That got me a little excited.
Sixteen was a somewhat tough par-three. I made par there. Seventeen was the one I really wanted to birdie so I could have an easier 18th hole. I only had 100 yards into a par four, but I left it short, on the front edge. I had about a 25-footer for a birdie. I just missed it.
Eighteen, a par five, not a hard-driving hole. I could have gone for the green (on his second shot). But I said, "No. I'm OK right now. I could go into a playoff even if I just make par." So I wanted to have a secure par and a chance at birdie.
If I hit a three wood, tried to go for the green (on his second shot) and miss-hit it, even par might be hard. So I hit a good lay-up to a distance that I liked, to about 75 yards.
During the practice round before the tournament, I had hit that shot. I had actually told my caddy, "Let's pretend I have to get up and down from here to get to the British Open." That's exactly what happened.
I hit it to about six feet.
At that point, you try not to think of the British Open or what this putt really means. You just think of it as another putt. But when you actually stand over it, you can't do that. It's almost impossible.
I told myself, "This is obviously a huge putt. But that doesn't change anything on how I'm going to hit this putt." I wanted to make a good stroke and aim it where I needed to aim it.
A lot of it is going through the same routine, focusing on the process and the routine of hitting the shot rather than the results or what something means.
Playing in the British Open was obviously a huge motivation. I feel a lot of it is using that motivation in the correct way and not thinking, "If I miss this." You can't really think like that. You kind of step back and think, "This is huge. This is an awesome place to be in. Just giving myself an opportunity like this is itself great. Even if I don't make it, it was a good fight. If I make it, it's great."
It was stepping back, thinking where I am, absorbing all this stuff, taking a lot of huge sighs and breaths, then try to make the putt.
After I made the putt, I just pumped my fist a couple of times. I couldn't believe it went in. It happened so fast, yet so slow.
It was a six-footer. But it seemed like it rolled forever. I was like, "Go in, go in, go in."
When it went in and the whole thing was over, it seemed like it was real fast. I couldn't believe it. I still can't fathom what I've accomplished and (probably won't) until I get there and see those things I've watched on TV.
Honestly, it wasn't as big as I thought it would be. It wasn't as fulfilling as I thought it would be. It was just, I had a good week, people congratulated me and I felt good for maybe a week or more. But after that you're back into normal life. Playing in college tournaments. Practicing with the same guys at the same courses. I think that's when you really need to work harder and stay focused on what you need to do and not think, "I'm playing in the British Open."
What you do in your daily, normal life will create those kinds of moments that you remember.
It was a good birthday gift, obviously. I actually bought headphones for myself at the airport on the way back home. I felt like I worked hard for it.
I spent my birthday by myself. I don't mind that. In my family, I don't think we celebrate birthdays as big as other families. I remember, growing up, practicing on my birthday, practicing on Christmas. Those days were just like any other day, so spending my birthday by myself wasn't a big deal.
But after I got back, I went out with my friends for dinner.
My dad started golf because of his business. He was a businessman and, especially in Korea and in Asia and I guess here as well, if you want to be in business, you've got to learn how to play golf.
He started going to the range to take lessons and I started following him when I was about seven. That's when I started. I got more serious when I was about 10. That's when I kind of felt like I could try to play golf for life.
He was better than me until I was about 11.
I started as a 24 handicap when I was 10. I was down to zero when I was 12. So it was a stroke every month.
The club we played at, I practiced there almost everyday after school, before school and I played in the club championships and stuff.
At first, they didn't allow me to play (in the championships) when I was 10. They thought I was too young to compete with them. They wanted me to play from the front tees, but I wanted to play with them from the back tees. So my dad actually did a lot of work in getting me to play from the same tees and in the same tournaments.
Not back then. But when I think about it now, there's something about golf that's different from all other sports. You never play the same course. I feel there are no two exactly-the-same courses in the world. The football field, the basketball court, they're always the same. But golf, there's different winds, there's different kinds of grass, there's different layouts, different sand. I think that's real challenging and interesting.
I also feel golf is a game of habits and who can make the fewest mistakes. Every time you hit a shot, you miss it. Yeah. Whoever can make the least mistakes.
You can never perfect it. It's always a big challenge. It always humbles you. It's a big challenge I think.
There were a few people we knew in Australia who could help us out. A lot of good tournaments, a lot of good players. I felt if we moved to the U.S. instead of Australia, I would have had a hard time. I think it's a lot more challenging here not just in golf, but also in life if you're not a U.S. citizen.
My dad was pretty successful with his business in Malaysia, so we had enough money to spend for about two-and-a-half years strictly on golf with minimum income. That move was for my experience and exposure to golf.
Moving to Australia was a good move, going back to Korea was a good move. All these moves were real necessary and real timely.
In Malaysia we lived a real comfortable life, our family did. We had a maid who did our laundry and cooked and stuff. That's normal in Malaysia. But it's like having a nanny here. So that was comfortable.
In Australia, we had a much smaller house. My parents were at home all day. I would go to school, do homework, play golf, eat and sleep. I don't think I hung out with my friends, maybe once a month, sometimes less.
It wasn't like I had trouble from racism everyday at school. But there were ignorant comments or behaviors I would hear or see.
They didn't even mean it. It was just the way they grew up and their culture, so it's not like I'm bitter toward them right now. I just hope somehow they'll get more educated in that area.
There's racism where you're offended and there's racism where you're shocked because it's so blunt and you can't believe it. One of them that I remember pretty clearly, I was walking down the hallway. Like there's an American Idol, there's an Australian Idol, and you remember William Hung from American Idol? There was another guy named Flynn on Australian Idol. He was like a Chinese guy who sang terribly.
I was walking down the hallways and a bunch of small guys, they were probably three years younger than I was and I was 15, they just started calling me "Flynn," saying "Are you Flynn?" Obviously they were being sarcastic and I just smiled and walked away.
That's one I remember pretty clearly. Most of the other ones were small stuff that I felt more. It wasn't an event that happened. It was a feeling, the atmosphere I was in. I was more excluded from certain groups, they didn't want me to hang out with them.
We felt we were there long enough and we were struggling financially. We were running out of money. I had played in a lot of tournaments. I had played well, so there wasn't much more I could do. There wasn't much use staying and doing the same thing over and over again.
Part of the plan was going back to Korea and trying to turn professional after high school.
During my junior year, I actually went to a Korean high school and I don't know any Korean. I know Korean, but (not good enough to) graduate from a Korean high school. I speak it at home so I can talk to my parents and friends. But if you ask me to give a speech or write a paper in Korean, I can't do that.
We found I couldn't graduate from the Korean high school, so we found an international school in Korea and thought maybe it would be better for me to go to college in the U.S. and play college golf.
We looked into that and asked a few people what they thought about that. They said it was a good idea.
I dropped out after a semester of my junior year at the Korean high school and finished it home schooling. That's when I came over to the States (for some summer tournaments). Then I went back to the international school.
When I came to the U.S., I played in six events. I missed the cut in the first tournament, so we were kind of worried. We only had five left and it wasn't like I had played well and missed the cut. I had played really bad.
I told myself I couldn't be playing bad at this time.
I came eighth at the next one, won the next two, came eighth, came fourth. So it was a good summer for us.
I visited Northwestern and I really liked the campus. I also visited Michigan and just felt that it was too big for me.
Since I had moved around so much, adjusting is almost normal, real normal now for me.
I feel my eyes had been opened to poverty, to living in hard times. But my eyes hadn't been open to the other end, to the really rich people. That's the thing I think I struggled with when I first came here.
Especially at this school, obviously there's a lot of wealthy people here, and even in this town. Just to see this end knowing there's that other end (of poverty) made me kind of mad toward the wealthy people.
I felt they were wasting their lives on useless things. But, at the same time, they hadn't seen the other end, I felt like. So I feel my goal in golf and everything I try to do is to kind of show the wealthy people, and even the middle class people, that there are people way worse off than them and that they need to appreciate what they have and use it in a better way.
While I'm saying that, I myself feel I have to be careful not to do that. Not to, if I get successful or wealthy or whatever, not to waste my money and possessions and whatever on useless things, but to help out and give back to the community.
I do carry a Bible around with me.
My parents took me to church since I was four or five. But there's a difference between your parents taking you to church and you really wanting to go to church. And not just church. When you actually have a relationship with Christ and God, it's a totally different life.
I look at it this way. A lot of people think of God as a policeman chasing after them and they run away from God thinking once they do a bad thing, God's there to punish them. That's why they try to do good things, to get God to reward them.
I don't believe that's how God is. I feel He's more of a doctor and you're the patient. He just wants to comfort you and fix you and heal you and stuff. That makes me want to go to Him because I see signs of myself being ill. When I see myself get angry and fall into different sorts of what we call sin, it is because by nature I'm sick and ill. That's why God wants us to come to him and when He heals us, that's when we can do good stuff. . .out of a real sincere heart to try and help people.
That transformation happened real slowly.
That's why I cannot be bitter toward the racism and all the struggles I've been through. I know God was sovereign over all those things and He used those things to show me things He wanted to show me and bring me closer to Him.
It was a slow process from my later years in Malaysia through Australia and my last couple years in high school. That's when I think God really prepared me and transformed me to come here and not be swayed by the college life.
Golf is another means to glorify God.
I know when I'm playing on the golf course I'm not just playing by myself. There's other people there watching me, playing with me, supporting me, whatever. And that's just another opportunity to serve God, to glorify God. Whether I play bad or play good, it's another opportunity.
If I play bad, how can I use that situation to show others that God is my God? I try to show that in my attitude and how I react to bad shots, how I react to bad rounds. A lot of people, for example, would throw their clubs or swear. But I know I can't do that because I have a God whom I'm representing.
Does that keep me calm? I would say it keeps me more patient. I understand why things are happening. I think I believe in the sovereignty of God so much that He never allows anything to happen without His permission. He doesn't allow me to hit a bad shot or a good shot without His permission.
When I hit a bad shot, I obviously know something went wrong with my swing. But I know God was sovereign over that and permitted my bad shot for a reason. So I think, "Why?" Sometimes I can figure out why, sometimes I can't figure out why.
A lot of times I feel I've had bad tournaments because God needs to humble me. I thank Him for that. I'm not bitter about that. I'd rather be broke and humble than be successful and boastful. So if God thinks, "Man, Eric shouldn't be successful right now because he's going to get boastful and he's not going to have joy in Me but have joy and pride in his success, I won't let him succeed," I see that as love. I don't see that as punishment. I see that as love toward me.
Other people will think Eric played bad. But I think that's a good thing that has happened to me because sometimes God rewards me with good tournaments. Playing in the British Open is a huge blessing from God.
Obviously, He allowed me to work hard for it. At the same time, it's another opportunity to show others, "Hey, I thank God. He gave it to me. It isn't something I fully worked for by myself and I deserve all the praise."
The U.S. Open (qualifier) was last May. There's local qualifying and then, if you make it through the local, there's a sectional qualifying. I made it through the local in a playoff and then I got to another playoff in the sectional.
Actually, I was leading by two with three to play. I didn't know that at that point. I bogeyed 16, parred 17 and then, at 18, I heard from somebody you're either leading or you're tied right now. So I'm thinking, "I have to make par or birdie here. I can't make bogey here."
It was a par five. I hit a good drive. I hit a decent second shot. There was water left and long of the green. I was about 150 yards out and I was pretty nervous at that point. I was thinking, "I have a chance to play in the U.S. Open."
That's where I learned that you have to focus on the process and the routine and not think, "I have to hit a good shot here. I have to hit a good shot here." That's not going to help my swing at all.
I was thinking too much. "I have to hit a good shot, I have to hit a good shot." I hit it long left into the water. I got up and down for a bogey and learned I was tied for the lead.
The next day we went to a playoff, me and two other guys. One guy made birdie on the second playoff hole.
First of all, I looked back and I thought, "That was a good place to be." Just giving myself an opportunity, that is a huge experience and it's a good experience. I always hear of people missing out at PGA Q(ualifying) school three times before making it. I think that builds so much character and, when you make it, you know you didn't make it on luck. You worked hard for it. You had to earn it.
That showed me I'm capable of doing it, but I had to keep working hard.
The more practical lesson is stay focused, stay in the present rather than, "I have to hit a good shot. What will happen if I hit a bad shot?"
The other one was the Asian Amateur, which is where I got my spot in the British Open qualifying (by finishing second). First place got an exemption to the Master's and the British Open qualifying.
I was two behind going into the final round.
I was playing well until the 11th hole. The 11th hole, it was a par five, I was in the greenside bunker in two. My third shot, I hit it thin over the green into another bunker and made bogey. Then I made double (bogey) the next hole. I lost it (the tournament) there.
At that point I could have said, "OK. You can't win it. Who cares?" But I said, "You still have a chance to come second. You still want to do your best." I played well from then on. I finished one under from then on and came lone second, so qualified for the British Open qualifier.
I knew a lot of people there. The Malaysian Open, which is a European and an Asian tour event, was held at the golf course a couple times and I went to watch it. I saw Vijay Singh and (Padric) Harrington play there. So to see myself play that course for the British Open was pretty exciting.
I had played in about three tournaments there. Different conditions, obviously, with different players. This one in March, except for me and the guy who won the Asian Amateur, the rest were professionals on the Asian Tour or the European Tour. So I knew it was a strong field.
I was a little intimidated to see all these Asian Tour players I had seen on TV. Now I was playing against them.
I just thought, "I'm here to play well. If I don't make it and play well, that's OK. I can't do anything about that. If I play well and make it, that's real good." So my focus was just to play good golf by my standard. Fortunately, it was good enough to make it.
I feel the lessons I learned from the failures, I learned and then I feel I have to move on. Even from success. For example, this weekend I'm playing in the Big Ten Championship and trying to defend my title. But I can't think of it as, "I'm trying to defend my title." It's a totally different tournament, a different field, a different golf course. I just have to think of it as another tournament. I'm just here to play good golf.
At the 18th, I was thinking the same thing. Hit good shots. Try to make a birdie. If I don't, there's nothing I can do about it.
I didn't have a cell phone while I was in Malaysia, so I had to go back to the hotel room. It was after all the interviews I had to do and lunch and talking to people and stuff. But after that, maybe three hours after I finished my round, I got to talk to my parents. They were real happy and excited.
I think my dad will be able to. Right now, what they're doing in Korea is they have an after-school academy for elementary students to learn English and usually they're the busiest in the summer. The students are out of school and their parents want them to learn English in the summer. So July will be kind of busy and one of them will have to stay behind. But I think my dad will be able to make it.
There is a bit of that. But a lot of it is I feel we did it together. It wasn't like they sacrificed for me and I did it by myself. I feel, this journey, we were all on it together. I feel my dad and I, he was my coach until I got in college, we went through things together, through the failures and successes together. Now I feel we made it together.
I don't feel like I paid him back. It's just that we got our reward together.
I've seen some footage of the 2000 Open when Tiger (Woods) won it at St. Andrew's. I saw a few pictures. But I don't think I'll be able to picture myself there until I get there.
I do sit back and think. I feel it's an experience almost beyond myself. I'm going to be playing the British Open with all these guys.
I'm going there to learn. Obviously, I want to play my best. But I look at it more as a learning experience, to see what they do different from me, and also to see where I stand among them. . . And, obviously, to just enjoy the experience.
To think that maybe five years ago, I was not even thinking about playing in the British Open, just saying it would be great to go watch. Now thinking I'm going to go play in the British Open just seems crazy.
I can't understand how big it is now.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter and become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook! Get the latest news, schedule updates, video and interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!