For Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) would like to pay tribute to all the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have not only enriched America's history but have been a big part of making golf more inclusive. We believe welcoming people from all backgrounds and embracing diverse perspectives better equip us to accomplish our mission of developing golf's next generation.
During AAPI Heritage Month we are highlighting, AJGA Player Representative, Jasmine Koo. Koo gives insights into her heritage, what it means to her, and her goals in serving as the Player Representative on the AJGA's Board of Directors.
Koo is a first-generation Korean American. Both her parents came to the United States from South Korea in the early 2000s. Koo's father moved to the States in 1999 to study and decided to permanently stay. Her mother later moved in 2004 to join him.
Koo grew up surrounded by her Korean roots and culture. Along with her parents and her brother, Koo resides in Cerritos, California. She is bilingual, speaking Korean in her household with her family and English outside of the home.
"I'm very surrounded by Korean culture like we always take our shoes off when entering the home and always have Korean meals," Koo said. "Just seeing the rise of Korean pop culture like K-Pop, BTS and all the dramas becoming more global makes me very proud to be Korean American. Not to mention all of the golfers that are showing success on the Tour."
The AJGA's membership is racially diverse, with 22% of the members being of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent in 2022. Koo feels like the representation is shown in the tournaments she competes in with the AJGA and has found some of her closest friends in those fields.
"My closest friends are within the AJGA, and we're scattered all over the country," Koo said. "To create that bond, you can't find anywhere else. That's why the AJGA is so unique because you have friends that understand your culture and relate to you. AJGA Invitationals are where that representation speaks the loudest because there's so many first-generation Asian Americans and International players."
Koo's golf path started early. She began learning to play at the age of four and found herself loving the sport by the age of 10.
"I started at an academy and every Saturday they would have mini-games for us to play," Koo said. "I started associating golf with fun with the way they introduced golf to us. From then, I started really practicing every day and competing in events. [Then] the AJGA was always talked about as elite level and I knew I wanted to be a part of that."
With the AJGA as her ultimate goal for junior golf, Koo made her debut in 2019. She has had a very successful career already. She has three AJGA career wins,12 top-10 finishes, she was a 2022 Wyndham Cup player and was named a Rolex Junior All-American in 2020 and 2022.
Despite all that she has accomplished, she still feels that she could do more to lead her peers. Through her fellow AJGA member and friend, Katie Li, who was a Player Representative through the 2022 season, Koo drew inspiration to run for the same position in 2023.
"She [Li] started telling me her [player representative] roles and I knew it was something I wanted to challenge myself with and to take on that responsibility," Koo said. "I think everyone wants to be a leader and that includes myself. I was so invested in the AJGA whether that's ACE Grant or Leadership Links so I wanted to be more involved with the AJGA because it's been such a big part of my life."
As Player Representative, Koo hopes to help new members get acclimated to the AJGA both on and off the golf course. She spends her time listening to players and parents alike on what could be improved in order to have the best experiences as a junior golfer with the AJGA.
"It's been really fun being able to guide others or answer questions because I know so much about the AJGA now," Koo said. "I just help others as much as I can and hope to leave the AJGA in a better place than what I found it. It's hard to beat what it is now, but that doesn't mean I won't try."
Koo will be playing in the 2023 Mizuho America Open event and is committed to play college golf at the University of Southern California upon graduation.