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The Man Behind the Machine

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By: Carly Groshon, AJGA Communications

He’s the number one junior in the Polo Golf Rankings.  He’s never shot worse than a 77 in an AJGA tournament, and he’s fresh off of his first Invitational win.  Those are just some of the accolades that have earned Eugene Hong the nickname, “Eugene the Machine.”  But if you ask the 16-year-old from Sanford, Florida, to describe himself, there’s one identity he clings to above the rest: being a follower of Christ.

“Golf is not the entire world for me.  I can always look forward to other things and glorify Him through whatever I do,” Hong said.

While it may not be his entire world, it could very well be his calling.  Only a rising junior in high school, Hong has already built up an impressive resume for a potential career in golf.  Aside from finishing in the top 25 in the dozen AJGA tournaments he’s played in, Hong was named a 2015 first-team Rolex Junior All-American and was selected to play on the 2015 Wyndham Cup East Team.  Just two weeks ago, Hong took home his fourth championship title at the Haas Family Invitational on Sedgefield Country Club’s Donald Ross Course.

“I’m really thankful for the win at Sedgefield, and I feel like it’s been a really long road up to this point and God has really helped me up to this point so I’m really thankful and blessed to have come this far,” Hong said.

That long road began when Hong was just four years old and his dad saw potential in his youngest son.

“When my brother started out, he tried out for his high school team, and back then, I took one of his clubs and I swung it,” Hong said.  “That’s when my dad said he thought I had a good swing and good hand/eye coordination.”

A decade later, Hong played in his first AJGA tournament, and in true Machine fashion, won it all.  While it would be easy for any young golfer to let all of that success go to their head, Hong stays grounded.

“I hope that if I become a pro golfer I can give back to the community and a lot of poor people, like the homeless,” Hong said.  “I want to not only become a good golfer but use golf as a platform to do many other good things and to help a lot of people.”

When he’s not on the greens competing for another championship title, Hong spends his free time playing piano for his church and practicing with Canadian golf instructor, Sean Foley, who coaches the likes of PGA TOUR greats like Justin Rose.

“He’s not only a really good swing coach, but a mental coach as well,” Hong said. 

Hong’s composure out on the golf course is arguably one of the teenager’s greatest skills as a golfer.  He credits Foley for instilling the value of mind over matter in him.

“You really want to be pure mentally and to trust in yourself and believe in yourself,” Hong said.  “I just try to stay calm.  In golf, you’re going to hit a few bad shots, but just recover and move on to the next.”

Hong will take his next shot at this week’s Rolex Tournament of Champions on the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee.  After playing his first practice round at the course Friday, Hong is honing in on his short game.

“The greens are really fast, but it will be a really good course and a really good challenge,” Hong said.  “If I can putt well, then that would really help my game out, so I have to work a little bit harder on that.”

Win or lose, Eugene the Machine can always find a silver lining in every stroke.

“There’s a lot of tournaments coming up, so even if you did bad you can always look forward to the next one.  Just try to be really positive,” Hong said.

The 2016 Rolex Tournament of Champions kicks off Tuesday, June 28 and wraps up Friday, July 1.  You can follow Eugene Hong’s fight for his fifth championship title, along with 131 other junior hopefuls, by visiting the Rolex Tournament of Champions website here.