Korea’s Jin Jeong has become the 2010 Amateur Champion. He becomes the first Asian winner of the event in its 125-year history after defeating James Byrne of Scotland 5&4 in today’s 36-hole final at Muirfield, East Lothian.
In doing so, the 20-year-old earned a nine-place rise up the World Amateur Golf Ranking to offically become the world number one amateur golfer, when the Week-25 Ranking was published on Wednesday 23 June.
Jeong produced a superb display of putting to take the title with at birdie at the 32nd hole, his tenth of the day. The reigning Riversdale Cup Champion reached the half-way stage two holes ahead of Byrne, the 21-year-old Scot having let an early two-hole advantage of his own slip away.
For the first four holes of the afternoon round, the scores remained the same, before Jeong made the telling move. He holed birdie putts of 30 feet, 12 feet and 18 feet on the par-five fifth, par-four sixth and par-three seventh respectively to build a five-hole lead that would prove insurmountable.
“I’ve never putted better than that,” said Jeong, a 5&4 winner in yesterday’s semi-final. “I was quite nervous all week, especially before today. But I came here this week really wanting to win. I wanted this title so badly.”
Courtesy of his victory, the current world number 10, who plays his golf in Australia representing Waverley Golf Club, earns an exemption into the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and an invitation to the 2011 Masters Tournament.
“I hoped that I was going to win the Amateur and come back for The Open because I’ve been watching The Open on TV every year since Ernie Els won at Muirfield in 2002. That was the first time I’d ever watched it,” he said. “I really wanted to know what it was like to play out of knee-high rough!”
“I always hoped that my first Major would be The Open. Now I can play at St Andrews. It means everything. It’s a dream come true.”
Jeong becomes the third Korean amateur to earn a place at St Andrews, the others being Eric Chun, who secured his Open berth at International Final Qualifying – Asia earlier in the year, and US Amateur Champion Byeong-hun An.
James Byrne, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on becoming the first Scot to win the Amateur Championship on home soil since Stuart Wilson, who won at the Home of Golf in 2004. The world number 20 was denied the chance of finding the form he had shown in previous rounds.
“I made a steady start,” said the Banchory member. “He made a couple of bogeys and I got two up.
“The conditions were much tougher today. Not only was it windy, but there were a lot of cross winds, and he [Jeong] seemed to handle it well - really good ball control. I was struggling with that.
“I don’t know how he putted so well. Every putt he hit was just perfect speed - it was unbelievable. He never really gave me a chance.”
“But I’ve got two more chances to secure my Open debut this year: Local Final Qualifying at Kingbarns for the 2010 Open, and the European Amateur for 2011, so I am looking forward to that,” the Scotsman added.
The 2011 Amateur Championship will be held at Hillside and Hesketh golf clubs on 13-18 June.
Full results from the 2010 Amateur Championship can be found online at RandA.org along with a full hole-by-hole description of the final.