Gunn Yang, the 2014 U.S. Amateur champion, is taking a one-year leave of absence from San Diego State to play professional events as an amateur.
Yang, originally from South Korea, was set to begin his redshirt-sophomore season at San Diego State this fall. Instead, he decided Aug. 24 to skip the college season after giving it some thought and having talked his parents and his swing coach Glen Daugherty.
Last season, Yang played in two events for the Aztecs, compiling a 74.33 stroke average. His best finish was T-8 finish at the Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic as an individual.
Yang’s main reason to take a leave from SDSU was that he might be invited to play in as many as 18 tournaments in 2015. He said he would play in the U.S., Asia and Australia.
“We felt that it would just be too difficult to take a full load of classes, compete in college tournaments and team tryouts for the team in order to travel, and play in all of these other tournaments, and, importantly, have time to make the improvements that I know I need to make in order to become a better golfer,” Yang said.
Yang, 20, is 99th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after claiming the U.S. Amateur title Aug. 17 at Atlanta Athletic Club with a 2-and-1 victory over Canada’s Corey Conners.
Via his victory at the Amateur, he has spots in the 2015 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship. The reigning champion also traditionally gets invitations into some PGA Tour events, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Yang has already received a sponsor exemption into the Farmers Insurance Open but said he hasn’t accepted the invitation just yet.
“This is all so new to me still so I want to take a couple of weeks to think about this and the rest of my schedule for 2015,” Yang said.
Though he did say he has committed to two tournaments thus far – the Japan Open (Oct. 16-19) and the New South Wales Open (Nov. 13-16).
Yang told San Diego State head coach Ryan Donovan and assistant head coach Evan Emerick that he has plans to return to San Diego State next fall.
“After a great year of experiencing all the pro events in Asia, Australia, and on the PGA Tour as an amateur, I am going to go back to school, play for the team, and finish my degree. That is the plan,” Yang added.
Donovan supports Yang’s decision but wonders about how the system affects college players who win the Amateur.
“The opportunity is great, but when is it enough?” Donovan said. “Is it really helping these kids out? If they win or finish second (at the U.S. Amateur), they’re gone (from school). I don’t know if that is helping a 19- or 20-year-old kid.
“It’s gotten to the point where you don’t want your kid to win.”