University Place, Wash. – Forgive Byeong-Hun Ben An, the 2009 U.S. Amateur champion, if he’s not sure where he is these days.
This Korean-born teenager, who lives in Florida, has had something of a leaf-in-the-wind travel itinerary since winning the oldest USGA national championship last August at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
His latest landing was at Chambers Bay, the site of the 2010 U.S. Amateur, for Media Day. There the young man, who earned an invitation to the 2010 Masters Tournament, and exemptions into the 2010 U.S. Open and 2010 British Open, tells you he loves the course that looks like it belongs in Scotland.
After playing it, it was the neatest type of course that I have ever played in my life, said the 18-year-old An, who will be a freshman this fall at the University of California-Berkeley. A lot of courses need long rough to make them tougher. This course does not need rough to make it tougher. I have never played a course like this before. It was a totally unique experience for me.
As part of the Media Day program, An addressed the crowd, played the course and participated in several interviews and photo shoots.
Despite missing the cut in The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club (72-78) and most recently at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links (79-75) in the U.S. Open, he relished both experiences.
Besides those two majors, An received exemptions into three PGA Tour events: the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (77-73), the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. (69-70-72-74; T59th) and the Memorial (77-71) at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
After playing in the PGA Tour’s AT&T National at historic Aronomink outside of Philadelphia, Pa., later this week, he will play in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and then the British Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. His tour of Chambers Bay evoked some familiarity.
I love this kind of course, he said of Chambers Bay. I’ve seen it before on TV. [It’s] like St. Andrews [and] all those links courses. It’s fun. You are looking to create shots. It requires a lot of creativity. I love this kind of course.
In his round at Chambers Bay, he posted four birdies and three bogeys.
The first few holes we played from in front of the back tees because we didn’t know if we could go to the back tees, An said. Then we to the back tees but on some of the holes, we were too lazy to go up [to the back tees], so we played from the forward tees.
Chambers Bay made an impression on this world-traveling teenager.
It was worth my trip, he said. I didn’t make a lot of notes on the course. I just tried to play it as it was and enjoy it. I didn’t lay up. I went for every shot and went for the flagstick every time.
His presence at Chambers Bay as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion made him a little uneasy but he realized it was worth his time.
It was special for me. An said. I was up there [speaking] and I was a little nervous with all the people looking at me. I don’t know if I can get used to this but then I walked to the clubhouse to watch the soccer game (Korea tied its match but still advanced to the round of 16). We were happy that we didn’t lose it.
This trip was definitely fun and new for me.
Pete Kowalski is the manager of championship media relations for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org