Parents’ sacrifice keeps Lee hungry for success

As an only child, KH Lee did not own the latest golf clubs or branded apparel unlike other Korean kids who grew up idolizing Tiger Woods or KJ Choi.,His parents, who operated a restaurant in Seoul, worked hard to fund Lee’s golfing dreams, with the sacrifices made by his father, Sang Moo, and mother, Hea Won Hong, keeping Lee humble and appreciative of the opportunities he has had in life.,With Mother’s Day being celebrated in North America this past weekend, Lee can’t thank his mom enough for keeping the family business running primarily on her own while his father took on the role of driver, chaperon and confidant during his formative years in golf.,The 30-year-old Lee defends his AT&T Byron Nelson title at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas this week, a year on from his PGA Tour breakthrough there.,To say the least, the journey to attain his American dream has been long and winding, not to mention pretty bumpy.,”Without my mother, we would not have been able to come this far,” said Lee, who finished a career-best 31st on the FedExCup points list last season.,”She took care of all things. The hardest work was done by my mother alone. Dad and I were better off because we lived together. I thought a lot about how lonely and difficult it must have been for her. So thinking of her hard work makes my heart ache sometimes.”,It was only when Lee was much older that he learned of some of the hardship his mother endured, including sleeping alone in the restaurant as it was too far and sometimes too late to make the commute home after business hours.,”Back then, they didn’t talk about difficulties at all. I just did what I wanted to do. If there are good things … I mean players buy new clothes when you play golf. So I said, ‘I’d like to buy too.’ It hurts a little that I did that immaturely. If I had known, I wouldn’t have upset them. There were times when my mother and father had such a hard time. They just encouraged me to do what I wanted to do.”,Hea Won said she and her husband simply wanted to do what all parents would, which was to provide Lee with every opportunity to excel in life after their son got hooked on golf at age 13.,”There were times when I wished someone was by my side running the restaurant,” she said. “The restaurant was for Kyoung-Hoon (KH) to do well, so I was able to persevere and get through it.”,The older Lee is proud of his son’s achievements in the US and also in Asia, where he has won twice each on the Korean circuit and Japan Golf Tour. Sang Moo said KH would accept what they could provide as they spent time together at training camps and tournaments both at home and abroad.,”We were a little short (of money) at the time. Even if we didn’t say it, he knew it,” said Sang Moo. “If all his friends wore Nike, I had to buy him non-branded clothes. Kyoung-Hoon was not shy at all and trained hard. Why is there no shame in a young boy’s heart?”,Initially, the parents did not imagine Lee would become a professional golfer. Their son was excelling academically at school, and was picked to participate in shot put. However, golf soon caught Lee’s attention as his grandfather played the sport and a driving range opened near the family restaurant.,Lee took lessons with the local teaching pro, Hyung Sang Chun, who recognized the boy’s dedication and concentration.,”He was a very gentle kid, and at first, I wondered if he could be good at sports. He was just ordinary, but after a while he showed he was reliable and didn’t act frivolously like other children. He focused well and had good self-control. He always asked questions. So, I suggested to his father to consider letting him grow up as a player because he had ability.,”When he came to practice, he rarely backed down from his hitting spot. He practiced steadily. I would say, hey, Kyoung-Hoon, if you’re done with practice, go home. He’d say yes, but he would never leave the range. He was the type of player golf coaches like. In that gentle personality, he had something extra… like an iron hand in a velvet glove,” said Chun.,KH regrets the times when he argued with his father during their travels, but appreciates the many pearls of wisdom his dad shared.,”We were just going through hardships together. We fought many times, it was really hard back then and there were a lot of fights. Thinking about it now, I feel sorry,” said KH.,”My father accompanied me in every round, every day. Actually he didn’t have to. In a way, he shared my schedule equally. Following my schedule must have been tough for him physically.,”He gave me a lot of advice. My father reads a lot of books and whenever he found a good article, he’d pass it on. But above all, he told me not to give up until the very end, and it’s the path I’ve chosen.”,The writer is a senior director of marketing and communications for the PGA Tour and is based in Malaysia