Staff Spotlight: Brian Hwang

Brian Hwang with members of the high school golf team

Brian Hwang with some of the members of our high school golf team during a recent after-school session.

Brian Hwang is a Teaching Professional with The Bridge Golf Learning Center and The Bridge Golf Foundation. He recently fielded some questions from Charlie Hanger, our digital content manager.

CH: Tell us a little about yourself — family, childhood, upbringing, etc.

BH: Both of my parents were born in Korea — my mother in Seoul and my father in Uijeongbu. My mom moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, when she was 5 and lived there until she graduated from the nursing school at the University of Sao Paulo and came to America. My dad moved to America when he was 21. Coming to the states without any college education and not speaking a word of English, he had high hopes and aspirations of making it in this country. He met my mother when he was 27, and they had me in 1990 and my brother, David, in 1995. The two of us turned the Hwang family into a sports family.

My brother was a truly gifted athlete in high school. He played varsity volleyball, soccer and lacrosse, and was an All American in lacrosse and the team captain and MVP of his soccer team as a senior. In college, he played lacrosse at LIU Post his freshmen year and at Wagner College for his last three years. At Wagner, he helped the men’s lacrosse team set a school record for the most wins in a single season. He graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology and now works in the solar energy industry.

I moved a lot when I was little, and I even attended the Seoul International School in South Korea for two years of my elementary education, but at 11 our family permanently settled in Hauppauge, NY. After moving back to Long Island, I really had to adjust to the lifestyle and the culture. I didn’t have many friends because of all my bouncing around, and it was hard to maintain the friendships I had created along the way. My parents were really busy with work, and my brother and I were really busy with school, and the only extended time I got to spend with my entire family was on Sundays. This was during Tiger’s prime, and we spent a lot of afternoons watching him sink dramatic putts to win tournaments. Watching him on TV really got me to take in golf and understand what the game was all about.

CH: Tell us how you got into the game, and about your development when you were a junior golfer.

BH: The first time I played was at my friend’s birthday party at a driving range and mini-golf course. I enjoyed hitting balls over and over, and I liked that the mini-golf forced me to use my mind and be creative to figure out the right shots. This is when I started to move away from baseball and basketball, my first two sports. I wanted to go to golf camps and learn more about the game even though my friends were all going to other sports camps. I became very focused and really started to develop quickly on and off the golf course. I loved to practice and be outside all the time. For me, there was nothing better than getting out of the house and clearing my mind on the course.

CH: You work with kids and adults. Do you have a different approach for each group? 

BH: I really don’t. My main job as a teacher is to ensure that my student is engaged in learning and having fun. Those are the key ingredients to success in golf. Some specifics may be different when teaching a 6-year-old as opposed to a 60-year-old, but my general philosophy and approach to teaching are the same. It’s very satisfying as a teacher when your student hits the ball smack in the sweet spot and sends the ball right down the middle.

CH: You’re taking over the coaching of the high school team next season. What are you planning to get them ready, and what are your expectations for the season? 

BH: I would like to thank (Co-Founder) Bob Rubin and (Director of Golf) Mike Sweeney for believing in me and trusting me to take the lead with the team next season. I’m taking it day-by-day and focusing on each step we need to take. My overall ambition as a first year coach is to win the PSAL championship, but I realize there is more to it than that. Our rising seniors are less than a year away from college, and our Foundation’s high school golf team is helping to prepare them for that.

As soon our playoff run ended last season, my main focus was to get the seniors ready for their final exams. Behind the scenes, our entire Foundation team has been diligently tutoring and spending countless hours prepping our young men for their Regents exams. We made it clear that there is time for school and a time for golf.

This summer, we have a terrific program lined up for our young men. All of our high school students will be spending a couple of weeks working at The Bridge in Bridgehampton, where they will also have the opportunity to practice in their free time. They will be in excellent hands with the golf staff there. Our younger students will be working with PGA First Assistant Golf Professional Mike Mancz at the Learning Center and many of the public courses in the New York City area. He’s created a summer program that will really hone their skills and involves a lot more on-course training than we’ve done in past summers. I’m confident all of our players will be on the right page when fall arrives and school resumes.

CH: Tell us about your time as a college golfer at UConn, and some of the highlights from your time as a player and student there.

BH: My years as a Husky went by pretty quickly because I was so busy with a rigorous schedule of academics, athletics, and life. Coach Dave Pezzino did a fantastic job of building a culture there and showing us how to really prepare for life after college.

I was blessed to be at one of the top universities in the Northeast. The athletic staff and facilities were tremendous, and the academic staff really cared for the student athletes. My least favorite moments were the 6am workouts and the late-night study halls, but all of that hard work paid off. My most favorite moments were our team victories and being recognized at halftime during a men’s basketball game.

Seeing the other great players on our team succeed really pushed me to become a better athlete myself. My greatest achievement during my four years was qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. I was inspired when the men’s basketball team won the national championship that year. It really made me want to get on the big stage. I worked really hard on my game during that summer break, and it really paid off.

CH: Before coming to The Bridge Golf Learning Center, what other golf jobs did you have?

BH: Before I got here, I was the Assistant Golf Professional and Lead Instructor for Bill Mackedon at Port Jefferson Country Club. I ran the ladies/junior clinics and the junior development program at the club while also teaching my other students. Although I was only there for a season, I consider Bill to be a true mentor and a great friend.

CH: You are in the PGA of America’s Professional Golf Management Program 2.0. Tell us about the program.

BH: The PGA of America recently created this program, which opens a new pathway for associate pros to choose. The program offers three main tracks — Operations, Teaching/Coaching, and Executive Management. I’m enrolled in the Teaching/Coaching path, so my studies and work are geared toward learning more about the game and the swing. No matter how much you know about the game, there are always new things to learn.

CH: What are your aspirations as a player?

BH: I would love to get back in the winner’s circle and compete in the PGA Professional Championship. Once I finish my Class A certification, I expect to play a full schedule and start competing more seriously, just like I did in my younger years. The ultimate goal would be to qualify for and win the PGA Championship!

CH: What’s on your golf bucket list?

BH: I would love to go back to South Korea and play the PGA Tour event at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island.

CH: What are your favorite teams, and who is your favorite pro golfer?

BH: My favorite teams are the Mets, Jets, Knicks, and Islanders, in no particular order. When you grow up in Long Island, this stuff happens.

My favorite golfer is a tie between Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim. Both have really inspired and motivated me to push myself in the game.

CH: Which golf instruction guru do you most admire?

BH: Dave Pelz has done a lot of incredible work. I remember attending one of his short game seminars when I was a junior golfer, and I was amazed at how important the wedges and putter were. As a kid I wanted to bash the driver all the time, but that seminar made me understand that learning how to score was the key to becoming a better golfer. I’ll always remember Pelz saying “drive for show, putt for dough.”

CH: What was the last book you read? Do you have a favorite golf book?

BH: The last book I read was “The Mindful Athlete” by George Mumford. It’s a great book and has helped me develop different viewpoints on how to feel and respond to game-time situations. As a competitor, I am always looking for an edge to get better mentally as well as physically.

My favorite golf book is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” When I was a beginner, I was mesmerized by this classic text and the illustrations. I really enjoyed learning about the basics and mastering them, just like Mr. Hogan.