Byeong-Hun An, 17, won the 2009 U.S. Amateur with a 7-and-5 victory over Ben Martin, 22, of Greenwood, S.C., becoming the youngest champion in the championship’s 109-year history at the par-70, 7,093-yard Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
It was awesome, said An, a high-school senior at Bradenton (Fla.) Prep. I think it makes it more special because the title is the youngest winner. It makes it more important and special. I’m feeling great, and I can’t believe that I just won.
An surpassed Danny Lee, an 18-year-old when he won the 2008 U.S. Amateur and supplanted Tiger Woods as the youngest champion. Additionally, An’s margin of victory is the largest since David Gossett defeated 17-year-old Sung Yoon Kim of Korea, 9 and 8, in 1999.
In the morning 18 of the scheduled 36-hole final, An and Martin traded the lead throughout the first 14 holes but An then won the 15th, 16th and 17th to gain a 3-up lead.
An, a junior golf All-American who has verbally committed to play college golf at the University of California in 2010, won six holes in the final morning nine but felt the turning point came at the 15th.
On the (second) shot on 15, that gave me a lot of confidence toward this afternoon’s match, An said. Starting on that hole, I had a good feeling. My shots were good and my shots were going straight, at least where I wanted to be, so I think that hole was pretty big. After that hole I had confidence on every single hole.
In the afternoon 18, An lost the 19th hole but promptly won the 20th and 21st for a 4-up lead. As Martin, a Clemson University senior, continued to struggle to find fairways and greens, An won the 23rd and 25th to increase his lead to 6 up.
I just didn’t have anything out there (today), said Martin, a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. It was just a struggle. The other Ben did what he needed to do, and I didn’t give him a great match, but it was a good run, and I had a lot of fun. As tough as this golf course is, you’ve got to be hitting quality shots. I was just kind of out there searching for something and never found it, especially in that second 18.
An, the 2009 Rolex Tournament of Champions runner-up and a 2009 Western Amateur quarterfinalist, knew his victory was meaningful, particularly to Korean golfers.
They’ll all be happy now, said An, who is the 13th Korean-born USGA champion. Now, they can be happy, like when Y.E. 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.
Danny Lee (2009 Amateur), Sihwan Kim (2003 Junior Amateur) and Terry Noe (1994 Junior Amateur) were the previous three male Korean-born USGA champions before An.
En route to the finals, An defeated Bhavik Patel, 18, of Bakersfield, Calif., 3 and 2, in the semifinals. Martin beat Charlie Holland, 23, a University of Texas senior who had eliminated stroke-play medalist Tim Jackson, 5 and 4, in the other semifinal match.