My Sportsman: Y.E. Yang
Son of the Wind sounds like a more impressive moniker than Son of the Vegetable Farmers, which also describes Yang, the fourth of eight children who was determined to find a different line of work than his father.
At 19, the Son of the Wind began picking up range balls at a local country club in exchange for a modest salary and the chance to hit balls early in the morning before the range opened and late night after the golfers left. He even had his own string of lights for that purpose. He soon turned pro, against the wishes of his father, who argued, "Golf is for rich people." The road was long, but you already know the important part. At 37, playing on the PGA Tour after surviving its qualifying school just nine months earlier, Yang became the first Asian-born male major champion. He is the toast of a continent.
That alone makes him worthy of SI's Sportsman of the Year honor, but he won the PGA by coming from behind in the last round to beat Earth's most formidable golfer,
Perhaps because of the language barrier, Yang's major championship has been underappreciated and undervalued in the U.S. Americans don't realize just how big this victory was in Korea, where Yang is now a superstar. He received a congratulatory phone call from South Korea's President
But consider this. When Korea's
By taking down Tiger, Yang inspired an entire continent. Check your globe. Asia is one big-ass continent. To borrow a line from the old
Ten years after, we may look back at Yang's PGA win as a watershed moment, just like Pak's. He permanently raised the bar for Asian golfers. One thing we won't say about Yang is that he was a one-hit wonder. In 2006, Yang played a stellar final round and won the HSBC Champions event in China. The runner-up who got outplayed in that one? His name was Tiger Woods.
Make a note: The Son of the Wind doesn't blow.