Men’s Golf: Chun makes splash in overseas tournament

Sarah Kuta

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Chang Keun Chun enjoyed being his son Eric’s caddy in the Asian Amateur Championship. But after a 2-over 74 in round one, he decided to just be Dad.

As Eric’s coach before college, Chang Keun couldn’t help correcting and teaching his 19-year-old son. Once he stepped away from caddying, it was much easier for him to be just another supportive father watching his son play golf.

“When he caddied for me, I don’t want to say he interrupted because that sounds rude, but I think he did,” Eric Chun said with a laugh. “He’s very opinionated. He pretty much fired himself after the first day.”

Chun ultimately finished second with a 7-under 281 (74-68-66-73) at the Asian Amateur Championship in Shenzen, China. His second place finish earned him a spot in International Final Qualifying for the 150th British Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2010. He finished five strokes behind Korean teammate Han Chang-won, who earned a spot in the 2010 Masters.

“It still hasn’t settled in how big the tournament is,” Chun said. “Just to get my name out there like that was pretty special.”

Over Labor Day weekend, Northwestern coach Pat Goss received a call from a reporter for Asian Golf Monthly, asking if the sophomore was playing in the tournament. Goss called around and discovered that Chun was among the top-ranked amateur players in South Korea, which qualified him for the Asian Amateur Championship. Chun applied for a Chinese visa, proved his Korean citizenship, packed his bags and was on his way.

After a 20-hour flight, Chun landed in Shenzen, where he met up with his father and former coach Chang Keun Chun. Chun settled in with his Guamanian roommate before sleeping off the jet lag in preparation for Tuesday’s practice round.

During round one at Mission Hills, Chun shot a 2-over 74 – which disappointed him because of the low-difficulty level of the course. His dad caddied for him, interjecting fatherly advice along the way.

The second round through, Chun had a new caddy and shot a 4-under 68, but still wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t until he shot a 6-under 66 on the third day that Chun said he finally felt he was playing up to his capabilities. On the final day, a tougher pin location and wind contributed to Chun’s 1-over 73.

With four rounds of 18 holes, Chun had plenty of opportunities to propel himself forward after a disappointing round one.

“It feels a lot more like a marathon,” he said. “After the first day I knew I still had a chance. I thought I’m nine back, you can’t win the tournament but you can lose it.’ I feel like I didn’t lose it at all.”

Chun used the middle two rounds to create an opportunity to win. He did just that, advancing from 41st to 10th after the second round, and moving to second place at the end of round three. Though he didn’t earn a spot in the 2010 Masters, Chun was pleased overall with his game and the week-long trip to China.

Chun said he hopes by shooting low scores on an easier course, he can apply that confidence when he plays tougher Midwest courses.

“You get into a habit of shooting low scores,” he said. “In college golf, we get so used to shooting even par and that being a good score at such a hard course. It will be good to come back and feel I can still do it at a tough course.”

Though the tournament provided plenty of local Asian entertainment and food, and Chun got to mingle with Masters player, something was missing – the jokes and teasing by his NU teammates.

“They were all asking me if they could caddy for me at the Masters,” Chun said. “It was actually the first time where they weren’t attacking me. They were supporting me.”

Chun’s teammates and friends stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch him play on ESPN. Chun got to know some of the players from Guam and shared meal with his Korean teammates, but he said he was still lonely without his NU crew. The support of friends back home made his trip overseas all the more worthwhile.

“After every round I would go back and check my e-mail and Facebook and there would always be somebody telling me good job or good luck,” Chun said. “Just to know that when I play bad or when I play good, someone is sharing the grief or the happiness with me.”

Sophomore Sam Chien, Chun’s roommate, said he was excited at the prospect of watching his friend play at the Masters with a win at the Asian Amateur. Even though that didn’t happen, Chien welcomed his roommate back to Evanston with open arms.

“I talked to him online while he was there,” Chien said. “When he got back I told him ‘good playing.'”

Goss said how important this tournament was for Chun’s visibility in the golf world. Chun was absent from the David Toms Collegiate, and Goss and the Cats definitely took notice. Without one of its best players, NU finished a disappointing 13th.

Though the Cats missed Chun, the team took the hit to allow Chun to add an international tournament to his resume.

“Any time you can compete and represent your home country, that’s a great honor,” Goss said. “It can only help you to play at the international level, with the best players and with a lot of publicity.”

Goss said Chun’s performance at the Asian Amateur was the hardest he has seen the sophomore work. He expects Chun to return with that same work ethic and lead his team in the Gifford Collegiate this weekend.

“Anything that’s going to help Eric truly reach his potential is going to help us,” Goss said. “He’s going to drag his teammates along with him as he improves.”