LOGAN, Utah – When Seokwon Jeon was growing up, he played baseball and soccer. Both of those sports, however, quickly took a back seat after his dad introduced him to the game of golf.
“Weekend mornings, I’d just wake up early and he’d wake up early,” Jeon recalled. “My mom and my sister would still be asleep and he’d just be like, ‘Do you want to go play nine holes and grab breakfast?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I don’t have anything to do.’ So, I just went with him and played golf. It was more fun than I thought it would be.”
That was in the seventh grade. Fast forward to 2016. Jeon is the lone senior on Utah State’s golf team and is preparing to play in his final collegiate event this weekend at the Mountain West Men’s Golf Championship at Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Ariz.
The three-day tournament will begin Friday, April 22, and conclude Sunday,
“No goals. Just play,” Jeon said of competing in the MW Championship. “I feel like if I set a goal, I play worse because I’m trying to play up to my expectations, so just let it happen.”
Jeon has already had a senior season to remember. After all, last fall he won the OGIO Utah Invitational at Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club in Park City, Utah, with a collegiate-best 12-under 201 (66-70-65).
“The first round I played decent, but the second round I didn’t play as good,” Jeon recalled. “I was four strokes back, but then in the last round I just made a lot of putts, hit greens and got up and down when I needed to. It was a good feeling.”
Jeon was tied for sixth at 6-under 136 following the first two rounds of the tournament. Houston’s Matt Scobie was the leader at 10-under 132 (66-66). But by the end of the two-day event, Jeon’s name sat atop the leaderboard, two strokes better than the runner-up, Trent Hill of Utah.
For Jeon, it was his third career win as an Aggie. His three tournament titles are the second-most in Utah State history, trailing Jay Don Blake’s school-record 15 titles set from 1979-81.
On top of that, Jeon’s 12-under 201 proved to be the lowest 54-hole score for an Aggie since Blake carded a school-best 18-under 195 (67-65-63) at the Utah State-hosted Ev Thorpe Classic in the fall of 1979.
“Seokwon has given this program a boost,” said Utah State head coach Dean Johansen, who has been in charge of the program for 16 years. “When you get a player like that, especially from Utah, it does things for your program that you just can’t imagine it would do. When a player like that starts to have the success that he has had, all of a sudden it validates your program a little bit more and other kids want to come up and play.”
Jeon has certainly done his part to help put Utah State’s program back on the map.
During his junior campaign, Jeon finished fourth overall at the Weber State-hosted Battle in the Tetons as he shot a 4-under 212 (72-72-68) to help lead the Aggies to the team title, their first since 2009.
“There have been ups and downs and I’ve had good moments and I’ve had bad moments,” Jeon said of his career at Utah State. “But, I enjoyed it and it was fun.”
Despite his late start in golf, Jeon quickly honed his skills and began playing tournaments in the eighth grade. As a senior at Hillcrest High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jeon placed second at the state championships, earning both all-region and all-state honors that year.
“I wasn’t recruited my junior year and I thought I was going to be done after high school, but I had a decent senior year and started talking to coaches,” Jeon said.
Four schools expressed their interest in Jeon: Utah State, BYU, Idaho and Southern Utah. He decided to become an Aggie and the rest is history.
“When (former assistant coach) Barry (Niemann) went to watch him play for the first time, he said, ‘This kid is so put together,’” Johansen said. “He knows what he’s doing, he has a practice routine, he has a slot for all his clubs and he’s very organized, and he’s been that way for four years. I have never ever had to worry about Seokwon.”
Jeon, who has recorded three holes-in-one during his golf career, admits he is superstitious when it comes to playing with a certain number on his golf ball.
“I don’t like to play with number fours on golf balls,” said Jeon, who moved with his family to the United States from Seoul, South Korea, when he was 8 years old. “The number four is a bad number in Korean culture, so every time I get fours for golf balls, I just use them during practice rounds.
Once he closes the door on his collegiate career this weekend, Jeon doesn’t plan on hanging up his golf spikes anytime soon.
“I’m probably going to go back to the Salt Lake City area and work at River Oaks Golf Course (Sandy) and then turn pro,” Jeon said. “I’m going to play in local tournaments and then try to play in the Q-School in the fall.”
Heading into his senior campaign with the Aggies, Jeon had an eventful summer as he won the Salt Lake City Amateur, advanced to the semifinals of the 117th Utah State Amateur Championship and qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship, which took place at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill.
Not only has Jeon been successful on the golf course for Utah State, but the same can be said for his accomplishments in the classroom. After all, the son of DJ and Hyun Jeon has earned academic all-Mountain West/WAC accolades for three consecutive years (2013-15).
Jeon is on track to graduate this spring with a degree in sociology.
“I’ve never had to worry about him in any aspect of life, which is so nice to coach,” Johansen said. “I get that from all of my kids, but he has stepped up and everybody follows him. He’s a natural leader. He doesn’t really want to lead, but when you have a kid with that kind of talent and personality, people are just drawn to him and they’re going to follow him and they have.
“This has probably been the most fun four years to watch a player that I have ever had. I’ve had great kids for 16 years, but it’s been a privilege to watch Seokwon. You don’t get them very often like this.”