Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Greatest Moments in Sports Grand Prize, presented by Sports Illustrated

As a result of being the head golf coach to the Kingdom of Bhutan, Scott Janus won a Greatest Moments in Sports Grand Prize, presented by Sports Illustrated. One of the prizes included a trip to any city in America to meet his favorite athlete. Scott chose New York so he could meet Mariano Rivera, the Yankees closer.

The winning entry: In 2007-2008, I was appointed Golf Coach to the Kingdom of Bhutan. During my stay I taught the youth in the capital of Bhutan 5 days per week every morning. One of my other duties was to travel across the nation to help implement golf into the lower secondary schools. While I was there I was able to teach the youth many advanced techniques in terms of pre-shot routine, swing mechanics, and
overall fundamentals. Just several months after returning to the United States, I received a phone call. The phone call described how one of the 15-year-old boys I had coached on a daily basis, had just qualified for the World Junior Golf Championships at Mission Hills, China. This information was amazing considering that the boy has lived his entire life in the Himalayas. The story is great and shows that anyone can become a champion under any and all circumstances.

Wikipedia 2012:
Mariano Rivera exhibits a reserved demeanor on the field that contrasts with the emotional, demonstrative temperament of many of his peers. Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage said that Rivera's composure under stress gave him the appearance of having "ice water in his veins". Commenting on his ability to remain focused in pressure situations, Rivera said, "When you start thinking, a lot of things will happen... If you don't control your emotions, your emotions will control your acts, and that's not good." Wikipedia 2012

Monday, June 22, 2009

Junior World Championship Qualifier

Bright future awaits Bhutanese golfer


When Scott Janus arrived in the Kingdom of Bhutan to teach the game of golf to the nation's youth, his task was met with open skepticism by many in the Kingdom.

"When I arrived to the Kingdom of Bhutan, many people were interested in the game of golf, but some of them were wondering why I was coaching golf in the Himalayas," Janus said. "They asked, 'How is this going to help our country? Our country's poor.'

"I explained to them, golf can bring a lot of opportunities to your kids. Some of the locals said that none of these kids will ever have an opportunity, but I explained that golf can bridge amazing gaps."

It turns out, Janus was right.

Earlier this spring, one of the golfers Janus instructed in Bhutan, 16-year-old Ziwang Gurung, placed second at a World Junior Championships qualifying event in Vietnam. That finish allowed him to compete against junior golfers from across the globe at the Nick Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in China, held this past March.

"When I started coaching Ziwang, he had a lot of talent, but his skills were very raw," Janus said. "He had been playing for three years, and he had a lot of potential. As soon as you see potential, you want to help that kid get to the next level.
"We would work on a lot of tour-level stuff. I gave him a tour-level pre-shot routine, making sure he new how to compete against international competition."

Gurung absorbed Janus' instruction like a sponge.

"These kids were so happy to have an American coach, and were so eager to learn," Janus said. "I worked with them every day, five days a week, about two to eight hours a day. That was my main task."

Gurung feels honored that his accomplishment is newsworthy half a world away.

"It's really interesting that the people from the newspaper want to write about golf," Gurung said in an e-mail to Janus earlier this week. "If I talk about the improvement you brought in my game, there are lots to tell as you were the first coach to teach me not to take over swing and to maintain that 'L' shape in the backswing.

"Your help in putting also had a lot of impact on my game, which made me feel comfortable in China and also in Vietnam. And I even enjoyed playing in both the places, which according to you was the No. 1 rule in golf."

Janus knew many of the kids he taught had bright futures ahead of them, but he never would have dreamed one would achieve the success Gurung has enjoyed so quickly.

"My reaction was that it's just unbelievable for a kid to come out of the Himalayas to compete at a world competition," Janus said. "He played at the World Junior Championships at Mission Hills in China, the biggest golf establishment in the world.

"I think this is only a stepping stone for him. Who knows what can happen as a result? He could possibly earn a college scholarship to play here in the States."

Which goes to prove Janus was right — the game of golf opens doors that would never be otherwise accessible.

"Ziwang was a kid who may not have been able to travel outside of Bhutan. Now, they're flying him to Vietnam and China. Many of these kids may not get an opportunity to travel, but Ziwang gets these experiences because of the game of golf. That's why I explained, golf can bridge a lot of gaps and open a lot of doors."

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Whole New World

Photo-Coach Janus in Gasa, Bhutan
Editor's Note: The following is the first in a two-part series about golf professional Scott Janus' trip to teach golf in the Kingdom of Bhutan.


Most Americans are quite familiar with Tibet, but ask the same people what they know about the Kingdom of Bhutan and you're likely to get nothing more than a blank stare.

It's not surprising. The Kingdom of Bhutan is a relatively small country — roughly a fifth the size of the state of Michigan — located just south of Tibet in the eastern Himalayas.

Up until the last quarter century, foreign visitors were not allowed in Bhutan, and even in 2006, just 12,000 tourists were permitted to enter the country for a taste of Bhutan's Buddhist culture.

Nine out of 10 Bhutanese are farmers, and the nation's No. 1 pastime is archery. All that being said, Bhutan would seem like an odd place for a golf professional to spend nearly six months. But that's exactly where Scott Janus found himself this past year, hired as the golf coach for the Kingdom of Bhutan.

"My three main tasks were to teach the youth of Thimphu (Bhutan's capital city), to coach the officials of the Indian army, and to implement golf into the schools," said Janus, 30, who now runs the Janus Golf Academy.

Janus, a native of Chicago, interviewed for the position in California with Rick Lipsey of Sports Illustrated, a member of the Bhutan Youth Golf Association.

After doing some research on his destination, Janus began a voyage across 12 time zones, a trip right out of an Indiana Jones film. He flew from Chicago to Detroit to Tokyo, then from Tokyo to Bangkok, before flying into Thimphu.

"The trip took 28 hours of travel time," Janus said.

"The first thing I noticed was there was a dirt road from the airport to the capital," Janus said. "It took us about three hours. Most of the roads in the country have yet to be developed. It was really interesting. Their entire culture is still intact. They still wear native clothing every day. It was very different, living on the other side of the earth. It was a totally different culture. It was exciting to see a country that just received television in 1995 and the Internet in 2002."

Photo: Downtown Thimphu, Clock Tower
Janus spent a majority of his stay in Thimphu, where he lived in a modern apartment building, complete with electricity and running water. The apartment complex housed guests of the nation who were experts in various fields, from the arts to professional trades.

Another resident of the complex was Ugen Tshering. Throughout most of its history, Bhutan's government has been run by a monarchy, but during Janus' stay, the king gave up the power of his position in favor of a democratic government, and Tshering won the first public election ever held in the country.

Photo-Ugen Tshering election ceremony

"It's the first peaceful transition from a monarchy to a democracy in the history of the world," Janus said. "The king gave up his power to the people. He gave up his rule in the favor of a democracy."

Visitors to Bhutan are typically provided a guide. Visa fees are among the highest in the world at over $200 per day, and tourists visas are typically for a maximum of 14 days. To stay longer, you must be invited by the royal family. Since Janus' stay was by invitation, he was free to come and go as he pleased during his time in Thimphu.

Photo-Coach Janus congratulating the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ugen Tshering

Golf In Bhutan

While the United States is home to many golf courses, the entire Kingdom of Bhutan features just seven golf courses, mostly of the nine-hole variety.

Photo-Royal Thimphu Golf Club

"There are three golf courses in the capital, one in Ha, and the remaining courses were built and are owned by the Indian army," Janus said. "Most of them are in pretty good condition. I'd say there are three championship courses."

Photos-Coach Janus training officials at the Indian Embassy Golf Course in the Capital of Bhutan

Janus said the popularity of the game of golf is growing rapidly across Asia, especially in India and China, where the number of golf courses has risen dramatically over the past decade.

The Indian army occupies Bhutan as peace keepers and defenders of the nation. The officers in the Indian army are golf fanatics, and part of Janus' duty in Bhutan was to help sharpen the game of these officers.

"Golf is just exploding in Asia," Janus said. "China had five golf courses in 2002, and now there are over 380. In Thailand and India, it's just erupting. It's by far the fastest-growing sport in Asia. It's all because of Tiger Woods.

"Golf is intertwined into the Indian army. The Indian embassy housed a nine-hole course. They were very passionate and very grateful to have a professional coach."

"They took full advantage of it. I had a full military transport to the embassy."

But teaching golf to Indian military officials didn't have nearly the effect on Janus as teaching the game to the children of Bhutan.

Check out Wednesday's Tribune to read about Janus' experiences teaching golf to the youth of Bhutan.

Coaching at 14,000 Feet

Photo- Team picture Punakha, Bhutan

Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series on golf professional Scott Janus' trip to teach golf in the Kingdom of Bhutan.


As the golf coach for the Kingdom of Bhutan, Scott Janus had three objectives: to teach the game to the children of Bhutan, to introduce golf into the nation's school system, and to teach golf to the officials in the Indian army.

The first two aspects of Janus' nearly six-month visit to Bhutan created truly unforgettable memories for the 30-year-old Chicago native who now runs the Janus Golf Academy.

"The most interesting part of my stay was taking a 25-day trip across Bhutan," Janus said. "I traveled over 1,200 kilometers to help implement golf into the schools. I stayed an average of five days at each school."

Janus was assigned a driver and a four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle, and together, they braved Bhutan's dangerously inadequate roads through the eastern Himalayas Mountains, visiting schools along the way. Some schools, however, couldn't be reached by roads.

"One of my favorite trips was to Gasa Secondary School," Janus said. "It's just a few miles south of Tibet. We had to drive eight hours down dirt roads, and we literally came to the end of the road. They called it the end point.

"From there, a porter met us with six ponies, and we trekked for six hours through trails to get to the town of Gasa."

While the town itself has a population of just 50 people, the secondary school is home to 102 children.

In Gasa,
"Kids will walk up to 2 1/2 hours each way each day to attend this school," Janus said. "It was just so cool. The town was at about 14,000 feet. It was just amazing to see how desolate (it was), a town that has no road to it, and doesn't get many outside visitors. The kids were just so grateful to be able to learn about golf. Most of them had heard about it, but they don't have TVs or the Internet, so they didn't think they'd ever have the opportunity to play golf."

Janus started with the bare basics, teaching the rules of the game, then began working on teaching the students everything from proper grip and stance to finer points of swing mechanics. He even helped them build a few golf courses. These courses weren't modern nine-hole layouts with well-manicured tee-boxes, fairways and greens. Since Bhutan is located entirely in the mountains, Janus and his students took advantage of any flat piece of land to bury a cup, adorn it with a flag, and call it good.

"We actually built small junior courses in each spot," Janus said. "We cut holes, put flags in, and made tee boxes. Their lawn mowers are the goats.

"Technically, golf started with farmers in Scotland who would shoot toward a rabbit hole out in a field. They didn't have manicured greens or course layouts. They just went to a hole in the ground, so that's how I know this could happen. That's how golf was invented, so why not go back to how it originated in Scotland?"

Students in Bhutan are required to speak English as a secondary language, so Janus had a relatively easy time communicating with his pupils. They treated him like royalty.

"They were very grateful to have a coach from America," said Janus, noting that not everyone knew where America was.

"The kids in Gasa had never heard of America. When you don't have television or the Internet, you don't know about the rest of the world.

"Everything was 'yes, coach,' or 'yes, sir.' I was not able to carry a bag. As soon as it was on my shoulder, they would grab it and carry it. They knew it was a great opportunity, and they didn't take it for granted. They just constantly said 'thank you.'

"We went all the way from basic fundamentals to advanced swing mechanics. I taught them the same way I would teach a collegiate champion or a tour professional. Some of them were very good. I taught them everything from etiquette, to rules, to swing mechanics."

Photo-Coach Janus with the Principle of Gasa

A majority of the golf equipment in Bhutan is donated through the Bhutan Youth Golf Association, which was created by Sports Illustrated writer Rick Lipsey. Most of the clubs are old hand-me-downs, but during Janus' last week in Bhutan, Taylor Made donated 40 sets of youth clubs to the nation.

"That was pretty cool, unpacking 40 brand new sets of clubs for the kids. They were thrilled," Janus said.

Since his trip to Bhutan, Janus has devoted himself to building better golfers across The United States through his golf school, the Janus Golf Academy. But even helping turn a weekend hacker into a scratch golfer wouldn't bring about the satisfaction of sharing the game with hundreds of wide-eyed young Bhutanese children.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Front Page of the Tribune Sports Section

This weeks Tribune Sports section featured two articles describing some of the various experience while coaching golf in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting Golf into the Schools

Golf Tournament in Mongar,Bhutan

This 25 day trip was sponsored by the Royal Government of Bhutan. The objective was to help implement golf into the Lower Secondary schools in 7 different districts throughout Bhutan. The trip covered over 1200 kilometers

Friday, February 22, 2008

The King's Birthday

The King's Birthday was a memorable event that included great entertainment, drinks, and music.