By Brad Fauber
Yong Joo knew when he first picked up a golf club at age 12 that the sport was his calling.
Chasing the dream of one day competing in the PGA, Joo, who played high school golf at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, began participating in junior tournaments by age 14. From there he moved on to Liberty University, where he played golf until he graduated in 2001.
Joo spent 11 years as a professional competing in mini tours, but his passion for the sport suddenly began to dwindle.
"I wasn't playing all that great towards the end there so I hung it up," Joo said.
Joo then moved out to Los Angeles, where he and his wife lived for 2 ½ years before the impending arrival of their first child brought the couple back to Virginia, where they settled in Maurertown in 2011 to be closer to Joo's parents.
Shortly after moving back to Virginia, Joo happened upon a job opening at the DPGolf Academy located at Broad Run Golf and Practice Facility in Bristow. Working under head golf professional and DPGolf owner David Predzin, Joo, a certified PGA apprentice, has spent the last three years providing individual golf lessons while heading DPGolf's junior golf program and Get Golf Ready classes.
It didn't take long for Joo's love for the game to resurface.
"Of course, being around the game of golf I got the itch again," Joo said. "There were more opportunities as far as playing some of these pro-ams and tournaments that the section ran that I didn't know about, at least in the past. I played a few and then of course that started that itch again."
Since then, Joo has become a familiar face in the Middle Atlantic Section of the PGA and he has earned his share of competitive achievements, including a victory at the 20th Annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal on May 1.
Joo has been busy since topping the Apple Blossom Pro-Am field in his first appearance at the event, as he has balanced his responsibilities at DPGolf Academy with his trips to the various Middle Atlantic Section tournaments scattered throughout the area.
Recently, Joo competed in the three-day Maryland Open at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, on July 14-16, where he finished tied for 27th during the weather-plagued event.
The next day, Joo found himself at Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke for the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia. Despite playing the course for just the first time last Thursday, Joo completed the tournament 3-under-par with a three-day stroke total of 213, good for fourth place in the event.
Joo's top-five finish was jumpstarted by a spectacular first round performance last Thursday in which Joo carded a 5-under-par 67 to take a two-stroke lead over the rest of the field after day one.
"I came into the event trying to see if I could at least get into contention. That was the goal," Joo said. "It was a pretty tricky golf course. It has a lot of trouble around the golf course. ... It was a good score the first day but not enough to separate by three strokes. There were some pretty tough ones. I was fortunate to hit some good shots on some of those par-3s that were playing pretty tough."
Joo couldn't maintain his lead over the next two days, however, as he carded a 76 on day two of the tournament last Friday before finishing up with a 70 on Saturday.
"The second day I kind of hung in there pretty well, I just made some mistakes with the putter a little bit," Joo said. "I made one mental mistake and that kind of compounded -- I bogeyed four of the last five holes. Part of it was running out of a little bit of gas after playing in the Maryland open as well.
"I had a stretch there [on Saturday] where I didn't make a par between [holes] 7 and 15. It was either bogeys or birdies," he added. "I was hitting some good, quality shots and locking them tight but I just couldn't really capitalize on getting up and down on some key situations."
Joo said might have actually benefited from his lack of knowledge of the Ballyhack course, as he tends to play better when he isn't aware of all the trouble spots located on the course.
"It really forced the driver out of my hands and basically that was a play that you needed to do out there. The driver really got you into more trouble than anything," Joo said.
Joo said his next tournament will be the Middle Atlantic Section's National Car Rental Assistant Championship next Monday and Tuesday at Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood, Maryland, where he will attempt to qualify for the national assistant championship tournament, a feat he has accomplished the last two years.
He said he his about a year from returning to his peak form, and he hopes to reach that plateau by the time the State Open of Virginia rolls around again next summer.
"I'm giving myself about that timetable, so hopefully by next year I'll be a little bit more competitive and be in the mix again, put a good tournament together," Joo said.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org