Pint-Sized Giant Killer

Chung Shows No Fear In Reaching Second Round

 

By David Shefter, USGA

 

San Francisco - Don't be fooled by his size. David Chung might be junior golf's version of Spudd Webb, but the way he is playing this week at The Olympic Club, he is looking more like Shaq.

 

The diminutive David Chung stayed alive with a 5-and-4 first-round victory Wednesday at the U.S. Junior. (John Mummert/USGA)

The 5-foot-5, 105-pound 14-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C., with the bucket hat barely towers over his golf bag and his driver extends up near his mouth, but with a textbook swing and guile beyond his years, Chung finds himself in the second round of match play at 57th U.S. Junior Amateur.

 

Not bad for someone who struggled to break 90 four years ago in Junior Amateur sectional qualifying. As a 10 year old, Chung posted rounds of 88-88 in 2001.

 

"I just did it for experience," says Chung, who defeated 17-year-old Greg Forest of Palm City, Fla., 5 and 4, on Wednesday to reach the round of 32.

 

Despite being consistently out-driven by his taller and much-bigger opponent, Chung shot the equivalent of even par over 14 holes. He never trailed in the match and he closed Forest out at the 14th hole by ripping a 5-iron approach from 178 yards to within three feet of the hole.

 

"It's mostly mechanics," Chung says of his game. "I've been working with Kevin Smeltz down at Champions Gate [in Orlando, Fla. ]. He worked with Ty Tryon and he works with [current PGA Tour pro] Hank Kuehne. I get down there every two to three months, but I send him tapes of my swing."

 

Before this year, Chung struggled to reach long par 4s in regulation. That's one way to develop a strong short game because he constantly had to get up and down to save par. Even this week at Olympic, Chung is relying on his deft touch around the greens. For instance, at the 464-yard, uphill 17th hole, Chung hit driver/3-wood and still came up short of the green in both days of stroke-play qualifying. He averages around 250 yards off the tee with his driver.

 

"I just have to get it up and down and take advantage of the short holes," said Chung. "I think [my short game] will be my strength out here. It's hard to hold the greens here with 4- and 5-irons."

 

As far as intimidation goes, Chung doesn't seem fazed by the older players in the field, even though he is the youngest left and one of two 14 year olds to reach the second round (Steven An of Korea is the other).

 

"I'm trying to get experience against older kids," said Chung. "I'm playing a lot of AJGAs (American Junior Golf Association) and other tournaments in my home state with older kids this year."

 

This fall, he'll find himself enrolled with plenty of older kids when he takes three classes at a local junior college in Fayetteville. Chung, who will enter the ninth grade, is currently home-schooled, but he was able to pass entrance exams to take English, Spanish and biology classes at Fayetteville Technical Community College.

 

"It was just not enough education," Chung said of the reason he decided not to go to the local junior high in his area. "My mom teaches me. We take a special test every year. It's called the Iowa Test. I've scored 99 percent. I normally get 95 to 100 on the tests. We get the textbooks from Bob Jones University."

 

Chung said he might re-enter high school next fall, but likely won't play on the golf team. He would prefer to focus solely on his game by playing various tournaments.

 

But this week, he has one major goal.

 

"I just want to get to the quarters," said Chung. "That way I'm exempt for next year."

 

David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with comments or questions at dshefter@usga.org.