U.S. Amateur champ is youngest ever again at 17
August 30, 2009
TULSA, Okla. – The best amateur golfers in the U.S. keep getting younger and younger.
For the second straight year, the U.S. Amateur crowned the youngest champion in its history that started in 1895. This time it was a 17-year-old Florida high schooler emerging from a field that featured many of the top college players in the country.
Byeong Hun-An defeated Clemson senior Ben Martin 7 and 5 in the 36-hole final on a brutal Sunday at Southern Hills Country Club, the site of the 2007 PGA Championship.
An was 9-over par on the day, but that still put him well ahead of the struggling Martin.
An, the second straight champion born in South Korea, took a 3 up lead by winning three of the last four holes in the pairing’s first of two 18-hole rounds. He doubled that edge as Martin bogeyed five of the first seven holes in the afternoon round, then closed it out after a short-lived comeback attempt by Martin the second time through the back nine.
An, who turns 18 on Sept. 17, is about a month and a half younger than Danny Lee was when he broke Tiger Woods’ record last year to become the U.S. Amateur’s youngest champion. Lee was 18 years, 1 month old at the time of his victory, while Woods was seven months older than that when he won his first of three straight titles.
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Other past champions include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson.
Martin led at the turn in the morning round and the match was all square after Martin knocked his tee shot at No. 14 off the flagstick, then had to recover for bogey when his ball rolled all the way off the green and into a bunker. It was a sign of things to come.
An won the next three holes, following Martin’s three-putt at No. 15 by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th. Martin then drove over the green on the par-4 17th, flubbed a chip and couldn’t recover.
He briefly sliced into the lead when An made bogey to start the afternoon, but then hit over the green again and had to take a drop before settling for bogey. That started a stretch in which An won four of six holes without ever making a birdie.
An moved to 6 up after 25 holes when Martin hit his tee shot into the trees left of the fairway and scrambled to hit his second shot through branches within 50 yards of the hole. He took off his hat and mishit his chip into a greenside bunker, on his way to yet another bogey.
Martin won back-to-back holes at the final turn to get to 4 down, but An slammed the door by winning the next three holes – starting with a birdie at the par-3 11th.