AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | In 1984, a young Korean medical school student in New York, seriously afflicted with the golf bug, decided to venture to Pinehurst. He wanted to see for himself what was billed as the American home of golf. He picked an auspicious time to visit, as the annual playing of the prestigious North & South Amateur Championship was taking place. The traveler had never seen a big-time amateur event, and he was impressed. He dreamed how wonderful it would be to have a son grow up to play in this tournament.
Dr. Chris Chung liked what he saw on his golf holiday, and upon finishing his medical studies, relocated to Fayetteville, N.C., close to Pinehurst. He simply wanted to live in a place where he could play golf all year long. Shortly thereafter, a son was born. David Chung not only would play in the North & South, he would win it, in 2009. But that victory would be just one of a long list of accomplishments on an impressive and growing golf résumé.
Chung was first introduced to the game at age 4 when he began riding around in the cart with his father. He beat his dad for the first time when he was 12, and then embarked upon an outstanding junior career, highlighted by a runner-up finish in the 2004 U.S. Junior at age 14. He was a first-team Rolex AJGA All-American in 2007. Education was paramount in his college selection process, and here’s where Chung’s story becomes both interesting and unusual.
In junior golf, when you hear the words “home schooled,” you immediately assume overbearing parents trying to maximize golf talent at the expense of a real high school education. That couldn’t be farther from the truth in this case. It was young David who had to beg his mother to allow for home schooling.
But he augmented that education by enrolling in the local junior college when he was 14. And while working with a golf instructor and living in Orlando, he attended another local junior college. By the time he enrolled at Stanford University, he already had the equivalent of an Associate’s degree. You don’t come across kids like that every day on the competitive junior golf trail.
In 2010, Chung had one of the most incredible runs the amateur game has seen in a very long time. In late July, he shot a final-round 65 to claim the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls C.C. One week later, he prevailed in a wet Western Amateur marathon at Skokie Country Club near Chicago, a rare back-to-back performance. After a week’s respite, he played the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, where he advanced to the final before bowing to Peter Uihlein. Two wins and a near miss in the most important amateur events in the world. Not a bad month’s work.
Stanford coach Conrad Ray will tell you that the strength of Chung’s game is his ball striking. Despite his 5-9, 160-pound stature, Chung generates incredible speed through the ball. Ray calls him one of the best pure ball strikers in the amateur game today. At his college coach’s suggestion, in an effort to promote better consistency, Chung put a long putter in the bag just prior to winning the North & South, and it has stayed there ever since.
Chung, currently ranked No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is a name you don’t want to see opposite yours if the format is match play. Since his junior days, he has developed into a match-play wizard. He also went undefeated in four matches at the 2010 Palmer Cup. Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve probably can’t wait to see what he does in Royal Aberdeen next fall.
Chris Chung first attended The Masters with David in 2006; this year, he attended as the father of a player. David opened with a solid even-par 72 Thursday, but he was 2 under through 16 before two closing bogeys. On Friday, he shot a birdie-less 76 to miss the 1-over-par cut by three shots.
The elder Chung’s youthful dreams have been exceeded, and then some. When asked if The Masters was the thrill of a lifetime, he nodded affirmatively, his fatherly pride clearly on display. The move to North Carolina continues to pay dividends for both father and son.