A HUMBLE CHAMPION
A DAY WITH Y.E. YANG
Visit the home of reigning PGA Champion Y.E. Yang, and you may well be greeted by a swift chop to the groin.
It's something Yang shared with Susan Kim and me, as we were riding from Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County, to a charity event back in the Milwaukee area.
The proud father of three was showing off video on his phone of his two sons practicing Taekwondo. Apparently one of them is sweet on the ladies, but introduces himself to dad's male friends with a "hayeeah" right where a man least wants it.
I wonder where that comes from?
It would be easy to assume it's in his genes, an aggressive, fearless mentality. After all, his father is the only man in history to hunt down Tiger on Sunday at a major. Y.E. Yang came from behind to beat Tiger Woods, who at that point had never lost a Major Championships when taking a lead into the final day.
It must take a fierce competitor, daggers for eyes, ice water in the veins, the cold heart of an assassin to accomplish a feat like that.
Thing is, if you spend any time with Y.E. Yang, you're left confused. The man you meet doesn't fit that profile by a long shot.
"Tiger was in the lead," he said, recalling that Sunday in the 91st Annual PGA Championship. Speaking through an interpreter, Yang detailed his thoughts approaching the first tee.
"He (Woods) had a two stroke advantage, and he had the win streak, 14 for 14 was it? I just thought it was a good day to have an outing with Tiger Woods. People pay a lot of money to do that. Playing for free. I was nervous at first. I went up to the tee. I thought, 'I'm never going to win this,' so just don't embarrass myself and play my game."
I've met a lot of pro athletes, and seen many who front that, "aw shucks" kind of attitude. Thing is, this guy is for real.
We watched a video at the news conference with highlights from Yang's win. "When I see clips of my win from the PGA Championship," Yang admitted, "it feels like I'm looking at somebody else's video. It doesn't really feel like I did that."
He added, life after winning a Major is, "...like watching a very good film, very good movie right now. I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of all these people. I'm holding back tears."
When someone wins the Powerball Jackpot don't you always hope (as long as it's not you) that it's some poor guy down to his last buck... that it's somebody who will value it... appreciate it... do good with it?
It's how I feel having spent time with Y.E. Yang. He's the kind of guy you hope he'd be. My favorite response of the news conference was his answer to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Golf Writer Gary D'Amato. He asked Yang what was the bigger deal that Sunday, the chip in on 14 for eagle or the hybrid on 18 for birdie?
Yang began, "What do you think?" Really, he really wanted to know what the golf writer thought.
He continued, "It's hard to rate, what precedes the other, because they were really important shots on that day. If you do insist, I have to say 14 for eagle, because it gave me the lead. Then again, if I squander the shot on 18, you could be sitting in front of somebody else right now."
I'm really glad we weren't.
Click on the video icon above to watch our interview on Live at Daybreak with Jim Richerson, General Manager and Director of Golf for Kohler Co.
Click on my facebook page for many more pictures from Media Day at Whistling Straits. www.facebook.com/vincevitrano.fan
Click here for more information on attending the 92nd Annual PGA Championship. http://www.pga.com/pgachampionship/2010/