Q&A: U.S. Amateur champ Byeong-Hun An
I recently chatted with the 2009 U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An, who, at 17, became the youngest U.S. Amateur champion when he defeated Ben Martin at Southern Hills. “Big Ben” told me about his busy year, and his thoughts on the new youngest U.S. Junior Amaeur champion, Jim Liu.
What has the past year been like since winning the U.S. Amateur Championship?
It’s been a blast. I played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Masters, Verizon, Memorial, AT&T, U.S. Open, the Scottish Open and the British Open. Every single tournament was great. The majors were my favorite. Other than the majors, Memorial was great because I loved the course and I had a good time. Playing in the professional tournament taught me a lot and I know there is still plenty I can improve upon. It’s been a real busy year, but fun the whole time.
When you were playing in the professional events, anyone give you some good advice?
Everyone has been different. Jim Furyk gave me advice at the Open about college. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Nick Faldo also gave me advice on how to approach the game itself. They all were asking me on what college I was going to, when I was going to turn pro, and how it feels to be here. Of all the time I spent with the pros, it was a blast except for the second round at the British Open. The wind was so rough it was something I never expected. I couldn’t get my mind straight with the chaos of the wind and cold, and it was not a good time. For a Florida guy like me, it was a terrible day.
Jim Liu is now the youngest U.S. Junior champion. Since you’re name dropping all those professional tournaments you were in, did you have time to follow the U.S. Junior?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I was following it the whole time. I have never talked to Jim before or have really heard that much about him. He’s four years younger than me. I saw his scorecard that week and it was really impressive. I also saw Gavin Hall shot a 62, and that was really cool to see. I saw Curtis Thompson was the medalist. I was happy for him and glad to see him do well at the tournament.
What’s life like with the pros? Seems like you’ve had a lot of time with them this year.
It’s the same thing, it’s just another tournament wherever I go. It’s 18 holes of playing golf and the only difference is if there is a cut or no cut. I think I had the most fun at the junior golf level because of all my friends are out there playing. I learned the most from the pros though because they all would give me a line of advice here or there. Courses are a lot harder when you’re a pro compared to junior or amateur. The courses are long, fast and really hard to compete on. I’ve asked for advice from some pros, but I’ll admit they haven’t asked me for any.
The U.S. Amateur is about three weeks away. Are you ready to defend your crown?
I want to play my best and defend the title and that has been my No. 1 goal this whole year. With all the traveling I have had this year, I have only been home what seems like 10 days in the last six months. The traveling is fun and going everywhere in the U.S. has been a blast. Going to Scotland was different and I was glad to try the foods from all across the country and world. I tried black pudding and that was different. Wasn’t too bad though.
Did you try haggis when you were in Scotland?
Sheep stomach stuffed with a bunch of different stuff along with oats and onions.
No, and I’m glad I didn’t.
What have you missed most about junior golf?
I missed my chance for the Canon Cup this year. I know it’s going on now, but it was the NO. 1 thing I always wanted to do because it’s fun and it’s a team (event). Last year we were not allowed to dye our hair when I really wanted to. It was a rule they said they were serious about and I really wanted to do it. I didn’t get to dye my hair, but I still had a lot of fun at the tournament.
You’re at the Porter Cup this week. What’s your take on Niagara Falls Country Club?
You can’t make mistakes on tee shots or you have to recover. I shot 1 under (Wednesday), and the best club in my hand is whichever one I decided to chip with. If I didn’t chip well today my score would have been a lot worse. This is a course where you have to keep it in the fairway if you are going to play well. Otherwise, you have to try and just salvage a par and avoid the bogey. The bogeys can start adding up out here and that is never good.