Justin Shin Takes Two Minutes

2015-05-26

After a year splitting his time between the Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Canada in 2014, New Mexico State product Justin Shin decided to give the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series a try. It didn’t take him long to make his mark, winning the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open in only his third start in China. Besides golf, the Seoul, South Korea, native by way of Canada, knows a little something about ice skating, where to find Korean food in Las Cruces, N.M., and what it’s like to put on weight and what it takes to get rid of a few excess pounds.

It was definitely a struggle at first to move to Canada from South Korea. I was 13. But what made it easier is I played soccer. I would play with my classmates, even with my language problems. I really couldn’t speak much English at first. But when I played soccer, that didn’t matter. 

We moved to Toronto first, and we lived in Mississauga. We were there for two years and then we moved to Richmond Hill. We decided to move to Vancouver because the weather wasn’t too good in Toronto, with only a six-month golf season. In Vancouver, I could play for about 10 months. By the time I got to Vancouver, my English was a lot better. 

I can ice skate. You pretty much have to skate in Canada. I couldn’t do without that. If I was going to have fun with my friends, I had to learn to skate. I stopped when I was 16 when I started getting serious about golf. I didn’t want to get injured. 

I tried hockey, but I’m terrible. My hockey swing was like a golf swing. My friends would tell me to keep the stick low, but I couldn’t. All my slap shots were like golf flop shots. 

When I still lived in South Korea, I played a lot of soccer. I was really skinny then and pretty quick. The painful thing is I got really fat over about a two-year period. I mean, really fat. I gained almost 100 pounds. When I was 12, I started getting fat, and that obviously made me slow as a soccer player. I couldn’t really do much. 

At age 16, I weighed 250 pounds. I knew I needed to start eating less and doing some workouts. I decided to try for three months, and I lost almost 50 pounds. Maybe 60 pounds. I felt more healthy. When I was fat, all I did was go to McDonald’s; every meal was McDonald’s. I’d have a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. And everything had to be large. Large fries, large drink and at least one refill every time. 

I count calories now. I feel like I can get fat really easily. So when I eat, I’m always thinking about calories. I try to eat healthy things. The buffets at golf tournaments are tough, though, with all the different choices. I have to be careful. 

There really isn’t any good Korean food in Las Cruces. Just me. I can cook Korean for myself. I started cooking when I was in college. I wanted Korean food, and there were no Korean restaurants. So I learned. 

Las Cruces was totally different than any place I had ever been. Obviously, it was the desert. I just wanted to try golf in another area. I’d never played golf in the desert, and I heard it was a little different. New Mexico State gave me a pretty good deal with my scholarship. But there was nothing to do there but golf and go to school. 

There weren’t many Koreans in Las Cruces. The only Koreans were students, like me, maybe 25 or 30 of us. The last time I was back in Las Cruces was two years ago. 

Even when I was named Freshman of the Year in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference), I knew I wasn’t ready to turn pro. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t ready to compete with the pros. But by my senior year, I felt like I could do it. So I went to the Web.com Tour Q School, and luckily got through. So I played Web last year, and I got a lot of big confidence out there. 

The players I played against in college, like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, I was able to measure my game against them. We played in college tournaments and then in the summer. I played with those guys a lot. We played all the big amateur tournaments together, the Northeast, the Sunnehana, the U.S. All of them. When I see what guys like Jordan or Justin or Carlos Ortiz are doing, I know I can do it, too. I’ve beaten them all a couple of times. That’s given me confidence They, of course, have beaten me, too. 

I use KakaoTalk to communicate. All the Chinese use Wechat on their phones, which is popular here. But all the Koreans I know use KakaoTalk. Sunday night after my win (at the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open), when I turned on my phone, I had probably 50 messages, from all over, from Canada, the U.S., South Korea, China. 

(Photo by Liu Zhuang)

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