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Son of Table Tennis Giants Wins US Amateur Golf Title

Posted September. 01, 2009 07:48,   


An Byeong-hun’s parents were a major force in international table tennis. Their son, however, chose a sport with a club, not a paddle.

Their son said he wanted to become the world’s best with a 45-gram golf ball. Though playing a different sport, he benefited from the qualities he inherited from his parents, including an innate talent for sports and even persistence. Adding perspiration to the mix, he is now known to the world for his own merits.

At Southern Hills Country Club (par 70) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday, An made history as the youngest player to win the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship. He beat Ben Martin of the U.S., 22, by seven shots after 36 holes of match play.

An is the only son of Korea’s An Jae-hyung, 44, and China’s Jiao Zhimin, 46, both of whom won medals in table tennis at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.

An Byeong-hun will turn 18 Sept. 17, making him the youngest U.S. amateur champion. The previous record set last year was held by Korean New Zealander Danny Lee at 18 years and one month. An Byeong-hun is also the first Asian national to win the U.S. amateur title, not to mention the first Korean.

If he maintains his amateur status, he can compete against professionals at majors such as Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open.

Just like PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang, 37, An Byeong-hun, who wore a white shirt with the label “Made in Korea” on the 18th hole, said, “I was very excited to talk about Yang since I am Korean. I had to believe I could do this. I will work harder for a bigger purpose.”

An Byeong-hun’s father won the bronze medal in men’s doubles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, while Jiao received a silver for China in women’s doubles and a bronze in singles. The couple met at the Seoul Olympics and married the same year.

Their son was born in 1991 on the third anniversary of the Seoul Olympics’ opening ceremony.

An Byeong-hun owes much to his father devotion and commitment. The father sent his son to Bradenton, Florida, for golf training in 2005. After the younger An showed symptoms of anemia and health problems, his father quit as coach for Korean Air’s pro table tennis team to help his son, serving as driver, caddie, and manager.

“I still don’t speak English well,” the elder An said. “One day, an American came over to my place and said something. I just said ‘no.’ The next day, my electricity was cut off.”

Jiao is the CEO of a company providing additional services for cell phones in China, and brought sent her mother to watch over her son in the U.S. The elder An has played golf for more than 10 years and shoots around 90.

A reporter asked, “You always play caddie but do you feel any burden,” to which the elder An said, “He does it well on his own. I just want to give some comfort to him.”

Jiao, who will fly to the U.S. on her son’s birthday, said, “Byeong-hun did a good job. I want to see him right away.”

“This will be the first family reunion since January. I want to eat whatever I want.”

A calm An Byeong-hun then raised his trophy above his head.