CHASKA, Minn. - For years, Asian countries could only boast about growth and potential in men's golf. Success was measured by a half-dozen players who had cracked the top 50 in the world rankings over the last decade.
It took Y.E. Yang and his stunning victory over Tiger Woods to make them a major part of the conversation.
"We've been waiting for quite a number of years for this," said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the hallowed Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Scotland. "Perhaps the PGA Championship was not the one we were expecting. But it's great for golf. It's great for Korea. It's great for Asia. And it's very timely for getting back into the Olympics.
"It's a fantastic day for golf."
Until the 2009 PGA Championship, players from every continent except Asia and Antarctica had captured a major championship over the last three years as "global golf" became a buzz term.
That changed Sunday at Hazeltine when Yang, a 37-year-old South Korean, delivered a shot felt across oceans. Leading by one shot against the world's No. 1 player on the 18th hole, he struck a 3-iron hybrid from 210 yards around a tree, barely over a bunker and onto the green about 12 feet from the cup.
In the immediate aftermath, the magnitude of his victory was slow to sink in.
"You never know in life," Yang said. "This might be my last win as a golfer. But it sure is a great day."
The ramifications for South Korea, not to mention all of Asia, may take years to unfold. When Woods won the 1997 Masters by a record 12 shots, many believed it would be a watershed moment for minorities on the PGA Tour. A dozen years later, he remains the tour's only player of black heritage.
The Asian community was desperate for its own champion.
"Growth happens two ways - either stars at the top pulling it up, or grass-roots programs pushing it up," Dawson said. "What Asian countries lacked is enough stars on the international stages. Let's hope it's the first of many, and not a one-off. It's not just Korea, but Japan, India, China, Thailand. They will remember Yang. He'll be a household name in Asia."