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An Youngest Amateur Champion

By Pete Kowalski

| Aug 30, 2009 | Tulsa, Okla.

(USGA/John Mummert)

Byeong-Hun "Ben" An, 17, with a 7-and-5 victory over Ben Martin, 22, of Greenwood, S.C., won the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship and became the youngest champion in its 109-year history Sunday at the par-70, 7,093-yard Southern Hills Country Club.

“It was awesome,” said An, a high school senior at Bradenton (Fla.) Prep. “Then 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, who was previously the youngest.

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 committed to play college golf at the University of California, won six holes in the final morning nine including the 15th, which he felt was pivotal.

“On the 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 dropped 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. 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.”

The champion receives a gold medal, custody of the Havemeyer Trophy for the ensuing year, and a 10-year exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Amateur if he remains an amateur. He also receives an exemption into the next U.S. Open, the next British Open and, traditionally, an invitation to the next Masters Tournament. The runner-up receives an exemption into the next U.S. Amateur, the next U.S. Open and, traditionally, an invitation to the next Masters Tournament.

Begun in 1895, the U.S. Amateur is the oldest of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.