Aug. 27, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Professional golfers travel a lot so it’s no surprise that Chan Song has been all over the place – some might say halfway to Hades and only part of the way back – chasing his dream.
Song could use a break in his pursuit, and you can tune into, “Big Break Greenbrier,” this fall to see if the former Georgia Tech linkster gets one.
That’s a television show pitting 12 aspiring golfers against one another. The winner will earn an exemption into the 2013 Greenbrier Classic next July in West Virginia. That would be Song’s first PGA event. His first reality show will debut (this will be Big Break’s 18th season) on Oct. 2 on the Golf Channel.
“It’s a grueling competition where everybody plays everyone, and one person will be eliminated each show. The weakest link goes out each day,” said Song, who earned All-America honors at Tech in 2002, ’03 and ’04. “We will play a wide variety of challenges. It could be . . . who drives it the furthest, who hits it the closest to the pin.”
That’s a simplification. There was some real golf involved, and some other stuff that was . . . not golf.
“It was filmed in June. It was two and a half weeks of 5 a.m. wake-ups, going to bed every night at 11, having every aspect of your life under a microscope,” Song said. “Sharing a house with five or six other guys – there were two houses – and you’re wearing a microphone all the time. You can hear everything.”
Song’s path has been atypical, to say the least, and with that in mind perhaps his selection to participate in “Big Break” might be considered typical for him.
He was born in Thailand, moved to the U.S. when he was 10, and has twin sisters – Naree and Aree – who gained tremendous notoriety as youth golfers. He played in 48 of a possible 49 events in his Tech career, graduated with a degree in Management, and then went about the never-easy business of trying to make a living as a pro in 2006.
The sport was not kind for a while. Neither was a nettlesome finger injury.
“After college, I went to Thailand to try to re-connect and played on the Asian Tour, and the Japan Tour,” Song said. “I played in the Pakistan Open, Bangladesh Open, Phillipines Open. I learned a lot about traveling and all those times I was playing my game was getting better. Then, I hit a tree root in 2008.”
The result was worse than the finger injury. Song, 29, has had two surgeries on his right hand after, “I went from swinging 100 mph to zero in a millisecond,” he said. “I tore a bunch of nerves and ligaments.”
That mess forced him from playing. He became vice president of sales/Asia for SeeMore Putters. He said, “My management degree from Tech came in very handy.”
The game, though, called like a siren. After a time, once his hand mended to a point after the second surgery, Song called his college coach. Bruce Heppler’s usually good for a pep talk.
“I always talk to him for advice. I asked him, ‘Should I give golf another try?’ Coach was always very supportive and wanted me to come back to golf,” he said. “He said, ‘Golf, I know, is still your love and you should give it a try one more time.’ “
So he is, not that it’s been easy.
A trip to the PGA’s Qualifying School last fall served to show how much work he had ahead of him, and this summer’s spin on the Canadian Tour has been a grind. He’s earned about $3,267 his season.
Song has been even more itinerant than most golfers. His home base has been the Cartersville home of Tech golf boosters Jim and Judy Dellinger, who are his Godparents. His team, though, is in Central Florida.
Reached by phone Monday, in fact, Song was driving to Orlando to see his sisters and his sport psychologist, Dr. Ken Vehec.
After this off week, he’ll return to the Canadian Tour, and gear up for another run at the PGA’s Q-School. His sisters are his top coaches.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to take advice from a loved one. I’m not a very technical person when it comes to a golf swing. I’m more of a feel player,” Song said. “They can tell right away what’s going on with me. My goal is the PGA Tour, and I’m going to try Qualifying School again. I’m exempt this year through the first round (of three).”
Song would not tip the outcome of, “Big Break Greenbrier,” because, “of contractual obligations,” he said. There have been 17 previous editions of Big Break, including the most recent, “Big Break Atlantis,” which was staged with women competitors.
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