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May 18, 2004

It Doesn't Matter if I Can't Hear, I Can Still Hit

From: Donga, South Korea - May 18, 2004

by Sang-Soo Kim (

He can't hear the sound of a hit ball. He can't hear the sound of a ball dropping into a cup or the applause of the gallery either. But nothing can stop his passion for golf.

Hearing-impaired golfer Lee Seung-man, 24, visited his native country in for the first time in two years to join the Asian tour's SK Telecom Open (starting on May 20) and mentioned his golf life and a dream on Baek-ambi Star CC on May 18.

--Golf is his only friend

Lee's hands are remarkably big. His father Lee Gang-gun, 56, explained, "They were not originally big, but became larger because he has practiced golf a lot since he was young." Father Lee added, "Seung-man has hit 2,000 balls a day since he was 8 years old in his first year of elementary school. His hands got bigger and his arms longer with too many practices, so his left arm is 3cm longer than his right arm now."

Losing his hearing sense as soon as he was born, Lee is now a 2nd-class auditory-disabled man. He can't hear anything unless someone shouts into his ear. He just reads others' lips and communicates by simple words.

He said, "I had no friends when I was young. Since my parents bought me a golf club, golf has been my only friend. I held a club even when I slept."

--Failure and Discouragement

Lee showed his talent when he won 16 times in Junior events. He was selected as a "Bright Golfer" to go to Ledbetter Golf Academy in 1997.

He started to hope for the U.S tour then, and tried it first in 1999. He suffered to roam from motel to motel in order to attend qualifying tests every Monday for joining the tour.

He could have joined two events in his dream, the PGA tour, when he passed the Monday qualification in 2000, but he was cut off in every match. He lost out on a chance for seeding in the 2nd class tour in 2001 and 2003 as well.

Having had a problem with expenses due to no sponsors, Lee said, "It was important to earn prize money in order to earn expenses for next tournament. I couldn't hit the ball as hard as I could; I had to hit safely."

--A relationship with Choi Kyoung-joo

"Seung-man, Don't be in a hurry. Have experience on the Asian tour and move forward step by step."

Inviting Lee to his house in Houston in December of last year, Choi (Superior, Tailormade) gave him an envelope. Big money, 20,000 dollars, was inside. The money was for expenses with which Lee could gain experience in Asia tour events. Ever since Choi saw Lee at the Shell Houston Open in 2000, Choi has taken care of Lee just as he would if he were Choi's real younger brother.

Following Choi's advice, Lee won the top honors in the qualifying round of 2004 Asia Pro Golf (APGA) tour, allowing him to jump to the APGA this year. He suffered a hernia during qualifying school, but he endured it because of the expense of an operation. He is scheduled to have an operation after the SK Telecom Open since he is in Korea.

--My dream is to be a PGA member

Lee doesn't have an assigned caddie. A caddie provided by a tournament helps him. Does he have a difficulty playing because of his handicap? He smiled. "I can concentrate more on playing because I can't hear anything." He states that he has no discomfort since many colleague golfers and staffs assist him. Of course he doesn't have a friend to open his heart to because he can't talk. He practices again and again when he feels he wants to divert himself.

Lee said, "My goal is to become a member of PGA." And he raised his thumb finger saying, "I will get married after I win in the PGA over 30."

He will challenge for PGA qualifying school after this season. The days are coming soon when we will see him play in PGA.

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