Monday, June 22, 2009

Junior World Championship Qualifier

Bright future awaits Bhutanese golfer

BY MATT DEYOUNG

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."

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