Teenage Golf Star Is the Son of Ping-Pong Champions

      August 31, 2009 09:24

      An Byeong-hun, a 17-year-old high school senior in Florida, hugged his caddie and father An Jae-hyung when he beat Bhavik Patel by three holes in the semifinal to advance to the final of the 109th U.S. Amateur Golf Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday.

      An is the son of An Jae-hyung and Jiao Zhimin, both Olympic medalists in table tennis in the 1988 Seoul games. They married in 1989, before South Korea and China established diplomatic relations.

      From left, An Jae-hyung, his son Byeong-hun and wife Jiao Zhimin (file photo)

      Did An get his talent of handling a small ball from his parents? He masterfully handles both long-distance driver shots that go over 300 yards and approach shots.

      Jiao, who is in China for business, said by telephone, "I don't know much about golf, but Byeong-hun doesn't get nervous easily and he is mentally strong at crucial moments. He might have inherited that from us."

      She added, "We didn't force him to play golf, but he loved it so much. He was introduced to golf at the age of seven when he followed his father to a driving range and began serious training in December 2005, when he moved to Florida."

      An's advance to the final of the Amateur Championship earned him a berth at the 2010 U.S. Open. "My initial goal was to pass the first round, and I didn't expect to do this well at all," he said.

      The youngest U.S. Amateur Champion to date is Danny Lee, a Korean-New Zealander who won the title when he was 18 years and one month old in 2008.

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