7:37 PM EDT, March 22, 2013
Because of his amusingly ambiguous last name, John Huh has jokingly been referred to as Johnny Question Mark.
Except that uncertain moniker may soon be changing.
You see, the man whose name raises all sorts of questions appears to have all the answers at The Arnie. He seems comfortable in every facet of his game — and his name.
When he was young, he'd get angry when the other kids would make fun of his name, but now he embraces its distinctiveness. He's even considered putting a logo of a giant question mark on his golf bag.
"Now that my last name is probably like the most unique last name on the Tour, I try to enjoy every moment when fans call my name," said Huh, who fired a 3-under 69 Friday and is only two strokes behind co-leaders Justin Rose and Bill Haas heading into the weekend at Arnie's place.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if this 22-year-old kid actually won the tournament and spawned the PGA Tour version of an Abbott and Costello comedy routine. Can't you just hear it?
Costello: "Who's in first?"
Costello: "The guy who won The Arnie, what's his name?"
Costello: Are you deaf? TELL ME THE NAME OF THE FELLOW WHO WON THE ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL!!!"
Abbott: "Huh, I said."
Costello: "No, I'm asking YOU to identify the name of the winning golfer at Bay Hill?"
Abbott: "For the last time, I'm going to tell you, Huh won the tournament!"
Huh not only has one of the most unique names in golf; he has one of the most unique stories, too. He is the PGA Tour's answer to Rocky and Rudy — a man who had a dream and then went out with everything he had and made that dream happen. His life story can be summed in the dozen words of his favorite quote:
"The pain of sacrifice is nothing compared to the pain of regret."
Unlike the stereotypical golfer, Huh didn't grow up in a handsome home behind the gilded gates of a country club. His parents were Korean immigrants who worked odd jobs in restaurant kitchens to make ends meet. When it became clear John might have a future as a golfer, his older brother James left college to go to work at a clothing store to help fund John's golf.
John had been born in New York, but his parents moved the family to their native Korea when he was just a baby. A decade later, they moved back the United States and settled in Chicago near a local municipal course where 12-year-old John fell in love with golf.
His family couldn't afford lessons or even range balls, so John would collect the surplus balls other golfers left on the range and take them over to the tee next to where the local golf pro was giving a lesson.
"I didn't have my own private instructor, so I was trying to get golf advice anywhere I could," John said. "I figured out if I hit the balls next to where the pro was giving a lesson, I could pick up some nice tips."
Huh didn't play in many junior tournaments because of the entry fees and travel. He didn't play college golf because a mix-up on his high school transcript prevented him from getting a scholarship to Cal State Northridge. His only option was to turn pro at age 18, pack his bags and try his hand playing in Korea.
He was so driven he'd take the subway three hours roundtrip every day just to go to practice in Korea. He was so driven that he beat balls on the range day after day and transformed himself from the kid who couldn't get a college scholarship to the Korean Tour's Rookie of the Year in 2010 and then the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year last season.
Johnny Question Mark, it seems, is quickly turning into Johnny Exclamation Point.
He's only one shot off the lead heading into the weekend, and his name is quickly becoming the answer to a million-dollar question:
Can he win the Arnie?
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