Translating for the pros: How Sungjae Im's interpreter handles hectic week at the Masters

Danny Oh casually stood between Steve Davis and Jitaek Im before 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 whether South Korean Jitaek was going to take a shot during the contest.

Oh listened to the question from Steve, turned to Jitaek and converted English into Korean.

Jitaek laughed and answered.

"He says he hasn't played golf in 12 years," Oh responded.

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The Davises laughed and the groups, including Sungjae's mother Mi Kim, walked toward the first tee.

That's the life of a translator on the PGA Tour.

Oh received added air time 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.

Danny Oh (right), translator for Sungjae Im, stands by his side on Saturday during an interview after the third round of the Masters Tournament. Oh is translator, agent and manager for Im. Andrew Davis Tucker-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports

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

Oh serves as Im's agent and manager, coordinates his travel and brings in sponsorships.

He began as a translator for Korean legend K.J. Choi, but when Choi joined the Champions Tour two years ago, Oh turned toward a younger generation.

A New York University graduate with a degree in Sports Business, Oh connected with Im in 2019 during the then-21-year-old's whirlwind rookie season.

Playing in his third Masters, Im appears more relaxed, Oh believes, despite placing second two years ago during his first appearance.

It's not only Im who is more comfortable at Augusta National; Oh is as well. The Masters is a unique environment for Oh as he must remain outside the ropes.

Unlike PGA Tour events, Oh can't be on the driving range nor walk alongside Im during a round. There's no communication between the pair until Oh walks from the 18th hole toward the clubhouse to sign his scorecard.

"Language is big. Obviously with the language barrier, that’s where I try to translate both ways," Oh said. "But how unique is this? Just to be out here in Augusta as his translator and enjoying my job."

Hideki Matsuyama's translator, Bob Turner, and Oh are good friends. The group of interpreters for many of the Asian golfers are a close group who deal each week with the same obstacles.

Sungjae Im acknowledges the crowd after making par on No. 11 on Saturday during the third round of the Masters. The Korean relies on translator David Oh as he plays professional golf in the United States. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

"We basically go through the same struggles, same thing every week," Oh said. "I’m just trying to exchange with them and stay close."

Japanese interpreter Jun Nagashima followed amateur Keita Nakajima this week. Nagashima led a team from Japan that also aided Takumi Kanaya.

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

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

"I've seen him on tour from the age of 14," Nagashima said. "He's young, skinny kid. Now he's muscular and a little bit more intelligent, I would say. So, hopefully we'll learn a lot from this week."

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

"Obviously, K.J. is a legend," Oh said. "But once youngsters came in and he went on to the Champions Tour, it was just a natural transition for me."

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: South Korean Sungjae Im's translator and his role at the Masters 2022