Text by Samuel Chang ,Photo by Alex Hsu

 

Yu Shu Hsieh’s encounter with golf began early.  When Hsieh was a child, his family lived near the old Tamsui Golf Club.  Moreover, Hsieh came from a family of golfers.  Famous golfers including Tony Hsieh and Chie Hsiung Kuo are both uncles of Yu Shu Hsieh.  His brother, Chin Sheng Hsieh, also became a well-known professional golfer following the footsteps of his family members.

Hsieh reflected on his childhood and said, “I wasn’t particularly interested in golf when I was a child.  Decades ago, Taiwan was still a very traditional society.  I came from a farming family and life wasn’t easy. Back then, the Tamsui Golf Club was managed by the US military in Taiwan.  No ordinary citizen could make it into the Club.  I made it in there because my uncle asked me to deliver his lunch box for him.”  Hsieh gradually got to know people in the club well and the Tamsui Golf Club became his childhood playground where he spent most of the time in the driving range.

In the old Tamshui Golf Club, Hsieh grew up together with a bunch of kids, many of whom also became professional golfers such as Chien-Soon Lu and Liang-His Chen.
 

We didn’t have a coach to train us back then.  We learned to play golf by carefully observing and imitating the swings and moves of top golfers who played there.”

After graduating from junior high, Hsieh didn’t do very well in the high school entrance exam.  At that time, his initial plan was to study for another year for re-doing the exam while working as a caddie part-time.  “It never occurred to me that I would actually become a professional golfer.” He said half jokingly, “I just wanted to get away from the strenuous life of farming.”

Hsieh gradually grew more and more enthusiastic and passionate toward golfing during his days as a caddie.  He started working for Tamshui Golf Club’s driving range at the recommendation of Chie Hsiung Kuo.  Hsieh recalled, “It was the 2 years that I spent working there that laid the foundation of my golfing career. Everyday, I would start practicing as soon as I wake up and wouldn’t stop until there was no daylight. ”

In 1978, Hsieh started competing in golf tournaments and got pretty good results.  Soon he clinched the championship title of National Day Cup, a major event of the Taiwan golf scene.  At that time, the Golf Association of the Republic of China, Taiwan, noticed this promising rookie and sent him and Wen Sheng Li to India the following year for golf tournaments.  The pair did not let fellow citizens down: they won a 2nd place for Taiwan. 

In the 3 years following Hsieh’s victorious return from India, he had been to all armature matches in Asia and even South Africa as Taiwan’s top amateur golfer.  It was this period of time that Hsieh’s independent, persistent, and self-sufficient character was formed.  He recalled, “Back then, life was hard and it wasn’t easy to gain access to information.  If an opportunity comes up, I would do my best to stand out from the fierce competition.  If other golfers wake up early to practice, I would make sure that I start practicing even earlier.”  His perseverance and determination in self-improvement have indeed set a great example for Taiwan’s young professional golfers. 

 

Hsieh started doing his military service in 1981.  Soon after he was discharged, he decided to go pro.  Hsieh, who had outstanding performances in amateur games, hit the bottleneck when he started his professional golfing career.  “During the first few years of my pro life, I was good at winning the 2nd place, and many of them were from play-offs.  Yet somehow I just couldn’t pocket the championship titles.”   Thanks to Chie Hsiung Kuo, who told Hsieh that “Patience is a must for all professional golfers,” Yu Shu Hsieh was able to find inner peace and started to tee off outstanding performances from then on. 

Hsieh brought home his 1st championship title from a play-off of a Linkou Match, in which he gained the lead with a birdie on the 1st hole.  This experience freed Hsieh, who then went on to win many more titles.  In 1988, he won the championship of the Asian tour tournament, held in Indonesia, which has become one of the most representative matches of Hsieh’s professional golfing career.

However, it is natural that athletes can not remain in their peaks forever.  Hsieh suffered from a major setback in the 2003 Taiwan Open, held in Sunrise Golf and Country Club.  Eager to win the national championship, he played offense to get the lead.  Yet his losses in the final two rounds were a huge disappointment. “I was so close to winning” recalled Hsieh, who was devastated by the sudden loss from victory close at hand.

“I play hard and practice really hard.  I believe I am no less devoted to golf than others.”   The loss in 2003 was indeed a setback, but Hsieh refused to give up golfing.  He cited Chun Hsing Chun as an example, saying that he still believes that he has great potential for future Changchun (Senior) games. 

New Arena to Fight for

Yu Shu Hsieh was elected as the 6th President of the TPGA (Professional Golfers’ Association of the Republic of China) in October last year for a 3-year term.  He officially took office in December, a mere 6 months ago.  In the face of the global financial crisis, the new TPGA head has quite a lot of challenges to conquer. 

Hsieh plans to re-launch the TPGA tours in Taiwan, which has long been the core mission of the TPGA.  In the past decade, professional golfing events in Taiwan have withered to such extend that TPGA tournaments and Taiwan National Opens could not carry on.  If it wasn’t for the enthusiasm and support from golf-loving entrepreneurs and fellow golfers, not even small or mid-size golf matches would be held in Taiwan, leaving domestic players with no games to play.

After taking office, Hsieh hopes to turn around such situation step by step. “I hope to pull together resources and golf enthusiasts so together, we may be strong.”   That’s the 1st thing he would like to do since becoming the TPGA head.  He visited colleagues, government agencies, organizations, and sponsors including Por Shih Lin, the Chairman of Taiwan Glass Group who has shown stout support for the promotion of the golf sport in Taiwan.  Hsieh said, “I hope to do my best to help build consensus among all parties and to use resources effectively.”  He paused and said, “I’d like to extend my gratitude to Chairman Lin of Taifong Golf Club and other golf enthusiasts for their support despite the impact of the global financial crisis.”  He aspires to see a successful Taiwan TPGA tour this year and the addition of more matches in the future in the hope to give Taiwanese golfers an arena to shine.  Hsieh urges golf enthusiasts around Taiwan to jointly promote the golf sport and he calls on the government to make tax-exemption legislatures regarding business sponsorships, which will encourage businesses to sponsor sporting events.

The second mission for Hsieh is to reform the association by clearly defining the rights and obligations of members and committees so as to make TPGA operations more effective.  The tasks ahead include integrating the Changchun (Senior) Committee and supporting the day-to-day operations of the Professional Coach Committee.

Yu Shu Hsieh has been working extremely hard since he took office hoping to realize his aspirations and vision for Taiwan’s golfing scene.  He commented, “I really hope to see Taiwan TPGA tour booming like PGA tour of the U.S.A., with various matches of different scales held around Taiwan and rotating courses in different seasons.  This will allow Taiwanese golfers to gradually build their skills; and businesses can find the venues for sponsorship, coupled by television broadcast for better media coverage.   Such efforts will help to cultivate Taiwanese talent in golf and allow the next Ya Ni Tseng or Wen Tang Lin to emerge.”  This, in Yu Shu Hsieh’s mind, “will greatly benefit Taiwan’s image internationally, which is much more effective than engaging in checkbook diplomacy.”