They’re the types of memories you form as 22-year-old exploring a foreign land that never leave you.
As he returns for the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges fresh off a win in Malaysia and hoping to go one better than his playoff loss to Justin Thomas 12 months ago in South Korea, Marc Leishman’s thoughts go back more than a decade to a young man from Warrnambool making his first tentative steps into the world of professional golf.
A feted amateur player, the young Victorian had won on home soil but was now becoming a global golfer; first stop, Korea.
It’s not the path of choice now for young Aussie golfers with world domination logged in their iCal, yet it taught Leishman what it was going to take to be successful. And how to avoid ordering dog from a restaurant menu written entirely in Korean.
“We had to walk about two miles to get to a restaurant from where we were staying out in the country,” Leishman recalled of his early international foray.
“When we got there the menu was obviously completely in Korean and no one in there spoke any English whatsoever. We just had to point to something on the menu and hope it wasn’t dog, pretty much. I distinctly remember Dale, who was my caddie at the time, and me, we used to bark at the servers at those sorts of restaurants to make sure that it wasn’t dog. That was pretty interesting, having to do that.”
Winner of the Cairns Classic, Nth Qld X-Ray Services Cairns Classic and the Toyota Southern Classic on the Von Nida Tour in 2006, Leishman made his first appearance in Korea in May that year and finished fourth in his first start at the SBS Meritz Sol Moro Open. A week later he claimed his first international professional win at the Jisan Resort Open… by 10 shots.
But more than the confidence that comes from winning overseas, Leishman said his sole season in Korea gave him the grounding he needed to forge a successful career in America.
“It was an eye-opener,” Leishman said. “It was really good for me because it made me appreciate how hard you had to work and the sacrifices you have to make to be successful.
“It’s a pretty different place for a foreigner, as we’re called over there.”
Twelve years on and Leishman’s affinity for Korea has continued, evidenced by his runner-up finish to Thomas last year in the tournament’s first staging.
After his commanding win in Malaysia last week, Leishman will again be among the favourites at Nine Bridges Golf Club where he is joined in the field by Aussie World Cup teammate Cameron Smith, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Rod Pampling, each of whom competed at Nine Bridges last year.
Smith finished third in 2017, just one shot behind Leishman and Thomas, with Day equal 11th, Scott outright 25th and Pampling tied for 61st.