Three years ago, Jae Han “Eric” Chun came to the United States in search
of top-notch golf tournaments and the strongest competition. This week, Eric is
in Scotland, looking for the same thing.
each case, he found what he was looking for. In 2007, Eric tested himself in
the AJGA and became a first-team Rolex Junior All-American. In the process, he
secured a scholarship to Northwestern University and just completed his
Eric finds himself in Scotland, preparing to take on the world’s best players
at the revered St. Andrews. It is just another step on a marvelous journey in
which the dreams of a young golfer have been fulfilled time and again, only to
be replaced with larger ones.
in Korea, Eric did not stay there for long. At age four, he moved to Malaysia,
where he took up golf and began playing tournaments. For 10 years, Malaysia was
his home and it was during that time that he was inspired by one of modern golf’s
most dominating performances. That eight-shot victory by Tiger Woods one decade
ago at St. Andrews is fresh on his mind as he begins play at the 2010 Open
“To play there is unreal, because I grew up
watching Tiger’s win at St. Andrews in 2000. But it’s something I only watched
on television, so to be able to play there at an early stage in my career, it
will be a good experience to see where I stand among those guys.”
Eric has traveled the world on his journey
to St. Andrews, although this is his first time in Europe. After 10 years in
Malaysia, Eric moved to Australia for two years, then back to South Korea. In
2007, Eric’s golf game had progressed incredibly well and a trip to the United
States was planned.
Eric arrived in North Carolina for the AJGA’s
FootJoy Invitational in June of 2007, and with expectations running high, he
shot a disappointing 76-77 and missed the cut by six.
“It was discouraging missing the cut. I was shocked, but I
knew I was good enough to compete.”
A trip to the Midwest proved Eric’s words
to be true. At the prestigious Western Junior Championship in Iowa the
following week, he grabbed some attention with a tie for eighth.
Three weeks later, Eric completed a sweep
of the AJGA’s Michigan tournaments, winning a pair of titles at the Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Boyne Highlands and
the Randy Wise Junior Open. From there, it was on to Bay Hill in Orlando,
Florida, where he placed eighth at the HP Boys Championship. The next week,
playing in his fourth straight and final AJGA event, Eric tied for sixth at the
Midwest Junior Players Championship.
time with the AJGA was complete and his mission was accomplished.
“My dad and I came over with plans of going
to college, and I wanted to make a good impression on college coaches,” Eric
said. “Fortunately I played well
enough to win and have some top-10 finishes.”
Interest from college coaches grew furiously
after his string of success, although Eric had taken a liking to the Midwest
and wanted to stay there. He found the academics he desired and the coaches he
liked at Northwestern University. In fact, his assistant coach, Steve Bailey, a
former AJGA tournament director, will be with Eric every step of the way at St.
“When I first made it to the British Open,
I got a lot of messages from people who wanted to be my caddy,” Eric said. “But
since I’m not going there to win money, I thought of the experience ahead and
who I wanted to share it with. I also wanted someone who will help me play
better. I am really comfortable around Steve. He’s been a friend and a coach at
the same time. I have to be confident and comfortable on the course and I think
Steve helps me do that.”
With coaches he can trust, Eric’s success
in college has been steady. In 2009, he won the Big Ten individual championship,
the first freshman to accomplish the feat since Steve Stricker in 1986. During
his sophomore year, he traveled to China, where he was runner-up at the Asian
Amateur Championship. That finish earned him a spot in the International Final Qualifying Stage back in Malaysia
where he spent his childhood. He even had the good fortune of playing a course
he knew - Saujana Golf & Country Club.
“Growing up in Malaysia, I played that
course a lot, so it was like going back home for me. I played a couple
tournaments there and I watched Vijay Singh win the Malaysian Open there when I
was a kid.”
Eric did not waste the opportunity. Playing
for four spots, he shot 67-71, sinking a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole
to claim the fourth and final berth in the 2010 British Open.
Despite his long run of success, Eric is
keeping his expectations at St. Andrews in check, focusing more on the
experience than how he finishes.
“It will be a good indicator of where I am.
My goal is to play the best I can play; just go there and have a good experience,
have a lot of fun and learn a lot of things.”
Eric also expects to complete his college
education at Northwestern, double-majoring in Communications and Religion,
while honing his golf game.
“I will keep testing myself in the
professional world. I’m planning on turning professional, but my philosophy is
that I’ll turn professional when I’m good enough. Until then, I’ll work more on
Eric proved to be a quick study in junior golf
and college golf. If his education in professional golf is the same, this trip
to St. Andrews won’t be his last, but the next one might earn him a nice
By Rob Coleman,
AJGA Chief Communications Officer