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Who is Charles Hong?

Charles Hong, a 2000 graduate of Walt Whitman, is teeing up for his drive towards the PGA.

When he is in his new home in Florida, Charles Hong, 21, plays or practices golf seven days a week, nine hours a day.

He calls his living room his work office; he has a putting device and a putting green in his living room and a camera hooked up to his television so he can watch and analyze his putting stroke.

HONG STARTED playing golf in Korea when his father and mother, Sung and Soon Hong, taught him the game when he was eight-years-old.

By the fifth grade, Hong was finishing no worse than third in Korean national tournaments in which he competed.

Hong came to America in seventh grade to develop his game at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla.

Hong said he moved to Walt Whitman before his freshman year of high school in 1996 because his parents believed he needed a better academic education.

Hong was the Maryland state public school golf champion in 1996 and the state runner-up in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

"He's a big time player,” said Rich Cameron, Hong's coach at Whitman, in 1999. “He strikes the ball as good as the big guys right now. Predicting PGA is a little out of the realm right now, but it wouldn't surprise me."

"This is as good as it gets, I guess," said Cameron, as he followed Hong on the first day of the tournament.

Hong and his old Whitman teammates, Gordon Chambers, David Litt and Randolph Shingler, set a Maryland state record by winning the 1999 team tournament by 55 strokes that year.

"I remember that," said Hong, after Friday's round of the Kemper Open.

AFTER ATTENDING James Madison for a year, Hong decided to focus full-time on golf.

"I thought about it for a long time. I thought about it all of my freshman year," said Hong. "I wanted to give it a shot."

He trains seven days a week in Florida, though he is spending the summer with his parents at his home in Bethesda.

Hong qualified to compete in the Kemper Open by finishing first out of 94 players in the qualifier at Little Bennett Golf Course in Clarksburg. Hong, the 1998 Kemper Open junior shootout champion, set a course record at Little Bennett with a 7-under-par 65.

The Kemper open has four "qualifiers" each year, "open" to those who pay a fee to the Mid-Atlantic PGA, although amateurs need a certain handicap, according to Brian Bishop, spokesperson for the Kemper Open.

The Kemper Open is the first PGA event Hong has attempted to qualify for since turning pro approximately six months ago.

Hong is attempting to qualify for Buy.com tournament events — top finishers in the events can eventually qualify for the PGA — or Canadian Qualifying School. He said other options include the Golden Bear Tour or Hooters Tour.

All will be ways he hopes to eventually qualify for the PGA Tour, which would enable him to sign up for events such as the Kemper Open rather than qualify for them.

"The Kemper Open was a wonderful experience. It gives me so much confidence," said Hong. "People always tell you that you can do it, but it's just talk. No I feel like I can break through."

Corrie Tayman, a 1997 graduate of Whitman, was a teammate of Hong's at Whitman her senior year and at James Madison University. She followed Hong during much of his second round on Friday, May 31.

"It's huge because this has been his goal and desire. I think you'll definitely see his name again," said Tayman, of Bethesda.