Class of the Field

Glendale's Sun Jung put together back-to-back solid rounds to capture the Class 2 state championship. (Photo by Zoe Calloway)

Sun Jung has been one of the top golfers in the state from the moment she first stepped foot inside Glendale High School in the fall of 2011. She has more medals than she knows what to do with. Jung has multiple All-State finishes at the two-day state tournament.

And now Sun Jung has a state championship to add to her collection.

After finishing the first day of competition tied for the lead with a 4-over 76, Jung shot a 74 on a windy and cold second day of competition to finish with a two-day total of 150 at Meadow Lakes Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield, holding off second-place Taylor BeDell of Warrensburg by two strokes.

After finishing as the state runner-up as a freshman, Jung was poised to capture a state title last season. However, a disappointing first day last fall resulted in Jung finishing six strokes back in 5th-place. That was good for another All-State honor, but it was not a state title.

(Photo by Zoe Calloway)

Therefore, it was important for Jung to get off to a strong start on the first day at State this year after having to overcome large deficits the past two years. As a freshman, Jung stood eight strokes out of the lead, and seven strokes back after day one as a sophomore.

“You never win a championship on the first day of the state tournament, but you can keep yourself from winning it by scoring poorly on day one,” said Glendale head coach Ron Yocum. “A good score on day one afforded Sun the opportunity to seriously compete for the state title on day two.”

And compete Jung did, as she battled through the cold, moist and windy conditions to hold off the hard-charging BeDell, who was Jung’s only serious threat on the second day. Jung punctuated her round by lofting her tee shot on the uphill par-3 17th hole pin high to the left of the green. Facing a tricky 18-foot (through six feet of fringe) downhill putt with quite a bit of right-to-left break, Jung calmly dropped it in the center of the cup for a birdie.

“That birdie putt gave me the confidence to finish strong,” said Jung. “I always had a rough first day every state tournament I played. But this tournament was different. I did have a rough start on the front nine, but something clicked and I started to play better.

“During the first round, I only focused on my present shot,” added Jung. “I didn’t focus on the past or future. Yes, I was tied for first but golf is fighting with yourself, so I was fighting with myself to play the best I could. As a human and a teen, I was nervous to go in that day, but I tried to focus on the golf and not the place I was in. That helped a lot the second day.”

Jung’s play on day two, as well as her strong finish to the round, was a testament to her mental make-up. It was also a sign that she had learned from previous state tournaments.

“As with all competitions, experiencing a state tournament previously gives any competitor the knowledge of the process and format, but the course is never the same,” said Yocum. “As a freshman, the second day was rained out. During her sophomore season, she was tied for fourth going into day two. Experiencing being in the hunt on the last day of the championship can be an asset if the competitor seriously reflects and evaluates their performance.”

When the day two scores had been tallied, it became clear that Sun Jung was the Class 2 state champion. It was a tremendous accomplishment, and one for which her coach was very proud.

“I was very proud that all the hard work and efforts she had given to developing her golf skills paid off with a state championship,” said Yocum. “There are many great players who haven’t won a state high school championship. It feels fantastic to have had the opportunity to share and witness one of your own players be rewarded for their work ethic, discipline, commitment, and earn the top individual golfing award in the state of Missouri.”

Jung, who is originally from South Korea, has been playing golf for the past ten years. She had a good teacher early on in her brother, Hong, who is now a professional teacher for the PGA.

(Photo by Zoe Calloway)

“My brother was my biggest influence,” said Jung. “He helped me start and helped me improve my skills. My dad is also my biggest supporter. He does anything for me to play golf. He spends all of his time other than work with me and golf.”

Jung announced her arrival on the prep golf scene in the fall of 2011 by earning medalist honors at the Missouri State Relays, the Jim Pearson Invitational, and the Ozark Conference tournament. She capped her season with a state runner-up finish.

“I got second my freshman year and that was a good start for me,” said Jung. “I was very happy to get a good start in high school. After getting second the first year, I had high expectations on myself last year. I wanted to play better, but it was hard last year. It was a good lesson that I learned. I got more humble and learned to focus on my golf and not the place I get. Both of those state championship tournaments allowed me to be more mature inside.”

Jung has compiled an impressive resume to this point. In addition to winning a state title and being a three-time All-State golfer, Jung has also won or shared three district titles and a pair of Sectional medalist awards. These accolades are in addition to the many regular season tournaments and matches that she has won.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Jung is not defined by her golf game. “Golf does not define someone as a person,” said Yocum. “Sun is a very down to earth young lady with lots of friends and is well respected and liked among the staff, faculty, her teammates, and students at Glendale High School. She is active in her church, and at Glendale. She is a fine student and participates in clubs and music.”

Golf is a lifelong sport, one that can be played the rest of a person’s life. Perfection is unattainable, so it allows for constant improvement for the serious golfer. “Sun continues to have the desire and drive to become a better golfer,” said Yocum. “All motivated golfers need to improve all aspects of their games if they want to get better, and Sun is no different.”

When asked what parts of her game need improving, Sun’s answer is telling. “I’ll say everything,” she said. “Golf is a sport that has to be fixed and learned every day. Sometimes my driver works and my putter doesn’t, or my irons hit well and my drive goes wrong. I need to keep practicing every day like a new day.”

A famous golf quote, which has been attributed primarily to Jack Nicklaus, states that, “the game of golf is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.” Regardless of who first said it, it remains true that a golfer’s mental make-up is as important—or more important—than how far he or she can hit the ball.

“Sun is very strong mentally,” said Yocum.”She never gets too up or down after a shot, good or bad, which really helps a player cope with the varying situations that can occur while playing a competitive round of golf.”

“It is hard to be focused the whole time, but I try my best to focus when I hit the ball,” said Jung. “The hard thing about golf is the mental part. It’s a life time challenge for a golfer. It is just a hard thing to talk about. I try to focus on the present, so the past is the past. I try not to think about it too much. Over the years, I have learned that it won’t help me to think of all the bad stuff, so I ignore it as much as possible.”

Jung’s mental approach is just one reason why she is such a strong golfer. She also has been blessed with the physical attributes, too.

(Photo by Zoe Calloway)

“First, she was born with several of the physical and mental traits that are needed to play the game on a high level,” said Yocum. “Second, she enjoys the process of developing those traits to help her golf skills improve.  Third, she has an enthusiasm about the whole game, and continues to want to learn skills to help her become a better player.”

Jung is now chasing history, as she has the opportunity next year to become just Springfield Public School’s fourth four-time state medalist, and the first since Glendale’s Anne Cain and Kickapoo’s Kim Hedgpeth went head-to-head from 1982-85. Glendale’s Vickie Reynolds was a four-time medalist from 1976-79.

Jung also has a chance to match Cain and Reynolds with two individual state championships. Reynolds actually tied for top honors in both 1978 and 1979, but lost a one-hole playoff both years. However, she is listed in the MSHSAA record books as a winner of multiple state titles.

“Where will Sun rank?” asked Yocum. “Who knows? Sun has had a terrific high school career to this point no matter what happens in the future and only time will tell. All any golfer can do is give his or her best effort each day at practice and in competitions, and let the chips fall where they may.”

One thing is certain, though. Sun Jung is a state champion, but next fall as a senior, she will be just as hungry to win a second one.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.

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