South Korean translator Sungjae Im and his role at the 2022 Masters


David Oh casually stood between Steve Davis and Jitaek Im ahead of Wednesday’s Par 3 contest, translating a conversation about being caddies that day for their sons, Cam and Sungjae.

From Sydney, Australia, Steve and Cam were curious if South Korean Jitaek was going to take a picture during the contest.

Oh listened to Steve’s question, turned to Jitaek, and converted English to Korean.

Jitaek laughed and replied.

“He says he hasn’t played golf in 12 years,” Oh replied.

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The Davises laughed and the groups, including Sungjae’s mother, Mi Kim, headed for the first tee.

This is the life of a translator on the PGA Tour.

Oh received extra airtime on Thursday when Sungjae shot 5 under par 67 to lead the first round of the Masters tournament.

Oh also translates on the PGA Tour for Sang-moon Bae, Korn Ferry Tour member Seonghyeon Kim, and Amy Yang on the LPGA Tour.

“Hey, that’s a unique job,” Oh said along the third hole on Friday as he followed Im among the patrons. “From a broader perspective, I work with golfers from South Korea who don’t speak the language. That’s where I slip in and do my job.”

Oh serves as Im’s agent and manager, coordinating his travels and bringing in sponsorships.

He started as a translator for Korean legend KJ Choi, but when Choi joined the Champions Tour two years ago, Oh turned to a younger generation.

A graduate of New York University with a degree in sports business, Oh hooked up with Im in 2019 during the 21-year-old’s whirlwind rookie season.

Playing in his third Masters, Im seems more relaxed, Oh believes, despite finishing second two years ago in his first appearance.

It’s not just Im who is more comfortable at Augusta National; Oh it is too. The Masters are a unique environment for Oh because he has to stay off the ropes.

Unlike PGA Tour events, Oh cannot be on the driving range or walk next to Im during a round. There is no communication between the two until Oh walks from the 18th hole to the clubhouse to sign his scorecard.

“Language is important. Obviously with the language barrier, that’s where I try to translate back and forth,” Oh said. “But how unique is that? Just being here in Augusta as a translator and enjoying my work.”

Hideki Matsuyama’s translator, Bob Turner, and Oh are good friends. The performer group for many Asian golfers is a close group that faces the same obstacles every week.

“We basically go through the same struggles, the same thing every week,” Oh said. “I just try to interact with them and stay close.”

Japanese performer Jun Nagashima followed amateur Keita Nakajima this week. Nagashima led a team from Japan who also assisted Takumi Kanaya.

Nagashima has worked with Nakajima, a 21-year-old from Kazo City, Japan, for the past nine years at Phoenix Country Club, a national training center in Miyazaki.

Nagashima’s task as a translator is only a limited part of his duties.

“I saw him on tour when I was 14,” Nagashima said. “He’s young and lean. Now he’s muscular and a bit smarter I would say. So hopefully we learn a lot from this week.”

For Oh, his sports agency business keeps him busy. And his best client was on the hunt this week to win the Masters.

“Obviously KJ is a legend,” Oh said. “But once the youngsters came along and he went to the Champions Tour, it was just a natural transition for me.”