Open place for US Amateur Champion An
Korea's Byeong-hun An has earned an exemption into the 139th Open after becoming the youngest-ever winner on the US Amateur Championship. The 17-year-old, who moved to the USA alone at the age of 14 in the hope of improving his game, follows last year's winner, Danny Lee, as the second Korean-born winner in as many years. Co-incidentally Lee's 2008 victory saw him become the youngest winner of the Championship, a record that stood for just one year.
In the 36-hole final at Southern Hills Country Club, Oklahoma, An comfortably defeated the USA's Ben Martin 7&5 to become the first player representing an Asian nation to lift the Havemeyer Trophy.
Coming just weeks after fellow Korean, YE Yang, became the first Asian winner of a Major when he won the USPGA Championship at Hazeltine, An's victory once again serves to underline the rapid development of Asian, and specifically Korean, golf. Korean men are becoming increasingly visible at the elite level of the men's game, while their women dominate the LPGA Tour with 33 players in the world's top 100.
And An is aware of the further boost that his achievement could have on golf in Korea, believing that many more promising players will follow him to the states to realise their potential.
"They"ll all be happy now," said An, who is expected to ascend over 300 places in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. "Now, they can be happy, like when YE Yang won the PGA Championship. A lot of people were happy for him and they all saw there"s a possibility to now win bigger tournaments. I think a lot of people are going to play golf now and come over here and play golf."
"I guess I"ll have to try to win the bigger ones now," he added.
In addition to his exemption into The Open at St Andrews next year, An will be offered a place in the field at the 2010 US Open and, according to the tradition, will receive an invitation to compete at Augusta National in the Masters.