By Kang Shin-who
Chung Jang-yul, founder of the Korea Golf University, speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at his office in southern Seoul. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Korean golfers have been commanding a dominating force in international golf scenes. Domestic golf population is steadily growing and a large number of golf courses are under construction. And there are many young guns aspiring to become next Choi Kyung-ju and Park Se-ri.
All these point to the need of some top-quality educational institutes that will produce top golfers, professional coaches, and other golf-related experts.
Well aware of this, Chung Jang-yul, chairman of Samdaiyang Development, has worked for years to establish the nation¡¯s first golf university.
And his dream is coming true.
The first-ever golf university in Korea will open in Gangwon Province in March, next year. The three-year college, located in Hoengseong-gun of the eastern province, seeks to teach everything about golf.
¡°Since childhood, I wanted to engage in education business. And while I was building a golf course, I began putting my dream of doing education business into practice,¡± Chung said in an interview with The Korea Times at his office in southern Seoul. ¡°And against all odds, in November, 2004, we were finally able to receive approval from the education ministry for the establishment of Woobong Foundation to set up Korea Golf University.¡±
Chung said Korea lacks higher education institutes producing human resources in the golf field, although the industry is rapidly developing in terms of quantity and quality with the domestic golf population estimated at 20 million.
The college will initially be consisted of three departments _ ¡°golf game teaching,¡± ¡°golf industry business management¡± and ¡°golf course management.¡±
Golf industry needs more experts
The school will nurture professional golfers, teaching professionals, club fitters, golf tournament organizers, golf course managers and specialists in golfing goods development.
¡°I am sure that our school will definitely contribute to the development of the Korean golf industry by producing top players and industry leaders,¡± Chung said.
Demand for professional golf industry experts will continue to grow as Korea has some 320 golf courses and we need more golf specialists as 200 will be additionally built here, he said.
¡°I have longed to build a school to return what I have earned and serve other people. That¡¯s why I¡¯ve invested a great deal of my personal wealth in this school,¡± he said.
He said he will only provide financial support to the school and stay away from management.
The school, established on the 48,920 square meters of land, has modern, state-of-the-art facilities, including short-game courses and driving range, where students study and practice golf.
The biggest benefit for the school¡¯s students is that they can use the Chungwoo Golf Course in the school, which was owned by the Samdaiyang group.
The 68-year-old school founder served as a chairman of the Korean Shooting Federation for College Students for 16 years and president of the Young Leaders¡¯ Club under the Federation of Korean Industries.
Chung said he will not meddle in management of the school. Woo Chan-myeong, a former KBS golf commenter, has been recruited as the first president of the university. Woo has obtained a doctorate degree in golf.
Chung said he has made all efforts to hire top-quality professors.
¡°I invited three university presidents for an interview session to pick professors,¡± he said.
The school has hired 15 professors so far and will continue to increase the number of faculty.
He said some 40 billion won ($3.3 million) has been invested for the establishment of the school since school foundation was formed in 2004.
He recalls it was a long and tough way for him to gain a school license from the education authorities.
¡°There were so many requirements from the education ministry. It was far more hard than I initially expected,¡± he said.
¡®Golf Dream Team¡¯
Asked how his college differentiates with other schools offering golf studying programs, Chung said, ¡°Other colleges and sporting universities have departments for golf players, but those schools have no golf course, so students have to move long hours for golf practicing in the field. However, our school students don¡¯t need to waste time as we have a golf course in the school.¡±
The school is also equipped with a dormitory which accommodates 180 students. All students will be obliged to live in the dorm.
Chung said the university will train students as the military academy does.
¡°Our school will give students hard training to mold them into top golfers and golf experts _ both strong mentally and physically,¡± he said.
¡°Although our university is highly focusing on helping students to be excellent in competitions, we will manage students strictly and those who complete required academic courses are unable to graduate,¡± he said.
The school will also put a greater focus on teaching English. Two native English teachers will be scouted from the nearby Korean Minjok Leadership Academy (KLMA), one of the nation¡¯s elite high schools.
For the first year, it will recruit a total of 180 students; 80 for golf game instruction department, and 50 each for golf industry management and golf course management department. The golf game instruction department aims to nurture world-class tour professionals.
Student enrollment quota of 40 is reserved for amateur or professional golf players, 10 for those from rural areas and children from underprivileged families and another 30 for those who have college diplomas. Tuition will be at about 4 million won, excluding dorm costs.
The school will recruit students through academic records and interviews and those who have significant records in golf competitions will get advantage for admission.
It will expand departments in the future. ¡°We plan to set up more departments going forward to nurture caddies, golf fashion designers, course designers and other golf-related talents,¡± he said.
The school joined hands with CT&T, a leading electric car maker, to set up the ¡°Golf Dream Team,¡± consisting of five young male and female players, with a long-term goal to make them national team members for 2016 Olympic Games which will be held in London. The team is headed by Park Hyun-soon who recorded six winnings in the KPGA.
His ultimate goal is to grow the school to the world¡¯s top golf university.