An Fire

BMW Championship LogoIn the flagship event of the European Tour, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England 23-year-old Byeong Hun An floated his boat in royal style winning with a record setting score of 21-under par. Probably the strongest field each year on the European circuit and this young South Korean wonder, who won the U.S. Amateur at the tender age of 17 at Southern Hills in 2009, closed with 7-under 65, the round of the day to win for the first time on this tour.

An’s textbook finish served him well all day long at Wentworth

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This storied championship is 61-years-old and is one of the most cherished trophies in golf to have on your mantel. Faldo won it four times, Peter Allis, Bernhard Langer, and Monty 3 times. Jacklin, Ballesteros, Woosnam, and Luke Donald won it twice each. Having your name on this trophy is a very big deal.

Francesco Molinari hand a hand an a half on this title leading through the first three rounds. But his driving accuracy and putting abandoned him on the way to a final round 74.  He watched playing partner An make five birdies and stake one for a tap-in eagle on the Par 5 12th on his way to lapping the field. Except for a stirring back nine which included 4 birdies in a five hole stretch by the most interesting golfer in the world, Miguel Angel Jimenez, on his way to a tie for second at 15-under, no one could stay in Byeong’s rear view mirror.

An’s career has been a slow march under the watchful eye of his teacher David Leadbetter and his agent Chubby Chandler. Since he turned pro in 2011 he has earned his stripes on the Challenge Tour and the European Tour with total winnings from 2011 to 2014 of around 112,00 euros. Three top tens so far this year the progress has been steady adding another 288,000 euros to the pile but no one would have figured that his breakout win would have been on a stage of this magnitude.

The 833,000 euro winner’s check and a jump from the 132nd ranked player in the world to the top 60 will change everything. Spots in the U.S. Open and Open Championship as well as sponsors invites to prestigious PGA Tour Events and opportunities to play in WGC World Championships should give An an opportunity to establish himself as a regular part of the conversation of the up-and-coming Asian 20-somethings who are making their indelible mark on the world golf scene.

Getting his arms around his potential-An wins by 6 shots over a world class field

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As we could see today with his stoic demeanor playing with the lead Ben An is not uncomfortable being in the limelight. His father and mother were both Olympic class Ping Pong players from Korea and China respectively, his mother is one of the most famous champions China has ever produced. I have a feeling when he makes the President’s Cup Team this fall he could be a dominating force in the team room ping pong competitions.

May, 2015

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