x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Korea unearth another future star

When Korea's YE Yang stunned the golfing world by overcoming Tiger Woods two weeks ago, we were told to anticipate a tidal wave of Asians following him on to presentation podiums all around the world.

Byeong-Hun An hits out of a bunker during the final round of the US Amateur Championship.
Byeong-Hun An hits out of a bunker during the final round of the US Amateur Championship.

When Korea's YE Yang stunned the golfing world by overcoming Tiger Woods in a head-to-head battle for the US PGA championship two weeks ago, we were told to anticipate a tidal wave of Asians following him on to presentation podiums all around the world. Few expected another massive red letter day in the history of Korean sport to come around so quickly, however. Byeong-Hun An is that country's latest hero having, at 17 years and 354 days, become the youngest winner of the prestigious US Amateur tournament - a record which until last year was held by the all-conquering Woods.

A year after Danny Lee, a New Zealander with Korean origins, beat Woods' long-standing age record in the most important amateur event on the calendar, An lowered that mark by six weeks after his runaway 7 & 5 victory over the American Ben Martin in Sunday's 36-hole final. An, who was attracted to golf while watching his father Jae, a former Olympic table tennis champion, hitting balls on a driving range, abandoned his Far Eastern lifestyle nearly four years ago to go west in pursuit of fame if not fortune.

Financial rewards will surely follow if he does what most of his Havemeyer Trophy-winning predecessors have done and swiftly joins the professional ranks. An, a student of the Bradenton Preparatory Academy in Florida, will get a taster of what it is like to play against the game's leading personalities in the next 12 months because invitations to the US and British Opens come automatically and a place in the US Masters line-up is a customary spin-off.

"It was a good decision, I think, to come over here," said An, who was nine over par for the 31 holes he played on the punishing Southern Hills Country Club course. "Thanks to my dad for telling me to come over to play golf. It was definitely worth it. I guess I'll have to try to win the bigger ones now." Woods, who won the Amateur event 15 years ago as an 18-year-old, was in simultaneous action on Sunday in a gripping conclusion to the Barclays Tournament -- the first of the PGA Tour's Fed-Ex play-off events.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, the world No 1 was bemoaning the failure of his putter to deliver the goods as he, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker finished a single stroke behind the hitherto unheralded Heath Slocum. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae