Edge School graduate excelling in final year at Washington State University

Despite being the best taekwondo athlete in the province and one of the tops in the country, Calgarian Sang Lee chose golf over marital arts, without picking up a club until he was 13 years old.

Nine years later, Lee, 22, is in his fifth year at Washington State University (WSU) and part of the men’s golf team on athletic and academic scholarships.

He recently clinched a Pacific-12 (Western U.S.A. collegiate conference) individual title, adding to his growing list of achievements.

“I really wanted to get a win at this level before I plan on moving onto the next one. It felt good to finally get that,” Lee said.

Family and golf

For Sang, and his sister Cecilia, taekwondo was a sport their father Chanwoo Lee wanted his kids to compete in and gain valuable lessons.

The Lee children trained with their father who founded Chan Lee Taekwondo, a martial arts school in Calgary.

Sang dominated in the sport.

“I won provincials almost every time I competed and I won nationals two times. I also represented Canada at the Pan-Am games and Junior World Championships in Turkey,” Sang said.

He began hitting the links after he decided to try two new sports — soccer and golf. Despite being adamant about taekwondo training, Sang’s dad encouraged it.

“As a father, I wanted to give him the options to experience many other sports other than taekwondo,” Chanwoo said via e-mail. “I wanted to be a soccer player when I was younger so I think there was a pressure but when it came to golf, it was Sang who told me first that he wanted to take golf seriously.”

“He was hitting the ball for five hours at the age of 14 when it’s dark and you can’t see the ball anymore. One time he didn’t know the golf club closed and had to jump over the fence to get out. That’s what made me decide, ‘I don’t care how much or how long it will take, I believe and I will support my son’. Nobody had to tell him what to do.”

Growing up in Calgary

Though born in Incheon, South Korea, the Lees moved to Canada when Sang was six. They went to Edmonton and had several stops in B.C. before settling in Calgary.At the conclusion of his final year at Washington State University in May, Lee says he wants to turn profession and one day represent Canada in the Olympics.

Photo courtesy of Chanwoo Lee

Through grades 10 to 12, Lee attended the Edge School for Athletes, which is on the outskirts of Calgary near Springbank. Sang spoke highly of the private school and said it’s a big reason why he was so prepared for college golf.

“I’d say the Edge School is probably the closest thing we have, maybe in Canada, to relate to college golf because they practice after class just like we do. They workout before or after, just like we do in college. They travel to the States as a group to play in events, which is pretty much what we do in college. They really teach you how to manage school and golf.”

Throughout high school, where the Lees paid $15,000 in tuition per year, Sang recorded numerous top finishes as a junior including some big victories in the Canadian Junior Golf Association and Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour.

“I took second three times at the Alberta Juniors; I was never able to finish that off. I think at the Alberta Amateur, I took a third, a sixth and a couple top 10s.”

His high school coach Randy Robb said even though Sang started golf just two years prior to joining Edge, he was a top player. Robb added Sang’s work ethic was above and beyond.

“Sang was always a guy that would overtrain,” Robb said. “We would talk about a drill – a three-foot putting drill and how many you can get in a row. The next day, he’d come in and say he was at the Golf Dome for about five hours the night before and got up to 100 or whatever. He always thought that quantity was the key. This summer, he learned a lot — he is a little more balanced and he understands it.”

After college

Following his WSU graduation with a major in sport management and minor in business in May, Lee plans to keep playing the greens and hopefully join the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA).

“He was hitting the ball for five hours at the age of 14 when it’s dark and you can’t see the ball anymore. One time he didn’t know the golf club closed and had to jump over the fence to get out. That’s what made me decide, ‘I don’t care how much or how long it will take, I believe and I will support my son’. Nobody had to tell him what to do.”

— Chanwoo Lee, Sang’s father“I’m not sure how early I’ll turn professional because I want to feel like I’m ready first. It does cost quite a bit of money and I don’t want to jump into it if I don’t feel ready.”

His head coach at Washington State, Garret Clegg, said Lee has the potential to become a pro.

“Sang has a really strong mind. He’s got some great inner beliefs and you need that professionally. Once you’re out there on your own, you have to belief and Sang’s got some inner strength that will serve him well. His short game and putting and chipping is very good,” Clegg said.

At Sang’s win on Sept. 30, his father Chanwoo was able to attend the game for the very first time in his son’s collegiate career, and said he was thrilled with the outcome.

“I was super excited to see him win. I felt my arms and body shaking. I was a proud father that day.”

“I pushed him hard so I think that is why he chose golf – the only sport he could beat his dad at,” Chanwoo said.

nhilts@cjournal.ca