I’ve been following the Solheim Cup, a golf team competition between American and European women.
The competition is intense and the enthusiasm of players and the gallery contagious. On the American team, Michelle Wie and Christina Kim are two players with very different playing styles, personalities, and even looks. However, they share the common Korean ancestry like me. They are Korean-Americans proudly representing America.
These two players contribute not only with their play, but enormously as teammates with their personalities and energy. Wie, the teenage phenomenon, is now 19-years-old. She’s been a media sensation since the age of 14 by bombing drives and dominating junior golf. She later caused a stir by competing against men, and now is a rookie on the LPGA. Michelle is one of the hottest draws for TV and tournaments whenever she plays. She is graceful with feminine good looks on her thin 6-feet frame. On this team, however, she’s a youngster and happy to be just a teammate of great golfers.
Christina, is short and chubby (think Margaret Cho). She is also the biggest personality on the team. Christina wears her emotions out on her sleeves after every shot. She is contagiously enthusiastic. Every player teamed with Christina has an extra bounce in her step. Christina screams at the ball while in flight, she dances after shots, she smiles at the crowd, she poses confidently in front of the camera under her french beanie. The gallery loves her. Some golf announcers are politely critical of Christina’s actions, but so what?
Koreans, in general, have fared well in professional golf. Y.E. Yang just won the PGA tournament overtaking Tiger Woods on the final day. However, all the Koreans in the PGA and LPGA are seen as stoic and reserved players without much personality. They are known for mental toughness and consistent ball striking.
However, the Korean-American golfers, such as Wie and Kim, as well as Anthony Kim on the PGA, are brash, expressive and in-your-face competitive. They have an edge that exemplify the youth in America today. They add life to an old stodgy game.
Such showmanship is generally frowned upon in the traditional Korean culture. That’s why we are Korean-Americans. That’s why even in the business world, we Korean-Americans can be so entrepreneurial. We don’t mind taking risks and drawing attention to ourselves, whether you like it or not.