Jeong defeats Byrne for British Amateur title
GULLANE, Scotland – Jin Jeong made it three out of three for South Korean-born amateurs when he became the first South Korean to win the British Amateur Championship.
The 20-year-old defeated Arizona State’s James Byrne, 5 and 4, in the 36-hole final to join compatriots Byeong-Hun An and Han Chang-Won as winners of the world’s three principal male amateur tournaments. An is holder of the U.S. Amateur, and Chang-Won triumphed in the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship at Mission Hills last year.
All three championships offer places in the Masters to the winners.
Jeong also earns a spot in this year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews courtesy of his historic victory. That was why he entered this championship.
“I can’t believe it. It’s a dream come true,” Jeong said. “I can play in the British Open at St. Andrews, and that means everything. I was thinking of winning the British Amateur so I could come back for the British Open.”
Putting and patience held the key to Jeong’s victory. That much was obvious from the way he holed out all day. Even when Byrne looked to have a chance in the match, Jeong holed out to deny the Scottish player. That was obvious from the morning round.
After being 2 up early and watching Jeong get back to all square after nine holes, Byrne had a chance to win the 14th when the South Korean pushed his tee shot into the right rough.
Jeong could only hack back to the fairway. However, he hit his 100-yard shot to 15 feet and holed for par while Byrne made bogey from the back of the green.
In the afternoon, Jeong made birdie putts of 20 to 25 feet at the fifth, sixth and seventh holes to win all three and establish an unassailable lead.
“Putting is probably the strongest part of my game,” Jeong said. “I practice my stroke every day. I like fast greens more than slow greens.”
Byrne had putted beautifully for the first five days, but his stroke deserted him in the final. When he had a chance to get back into the match, he couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the hole.
“He made so many birdies, and that drains you,” Byrne said. “He never really gave me a chance. The greens were just really tricky, crusty, firm and fast. It was just a matter of holing a few putts, and I just didn’t hole them.”
The 21-year-old was bidding to become the first Scot to win the championship since Stuart Wilson in 2004. More importantly, he was hoping to book his place at St. Andrews for this year’s Open Championship.
“This is the third time I’ve been within shots of getting into the Open. I thought it was going to be lucky this week.”
Byrne had a chance to play in the Open last year when he led Open Qualifying but missed out. He led the European Amateur Championship last year but faded to miss out on a place in this year’s Open.
Jeong is the latest in a long line of Korean men to excel in the royal and ancient game. Like the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, he’s had to leave South Korea to develop his game. An was a senior in high school at Bradenton, Fla., when he won. Jeong was born in Busan, but left South Korea two and half years ago and moved to Australia.
He has permanent residence and is a member of Waverly Golf Club in Melbourne, where Trevor Flakemore coaches him. Jeong is thinking of taking out Australian citizenship at the end of this year.
The plus-5 handicapper’s biggest achievements before this week had been winning the Riversdale Cup and the Tasmanian Open in his adopted land. Winning this tournament surpasses those two victories.
Victory over the Muirfield links marks him as yet another young Korean to watch.
Final scores from the match play finals at the British Amateur, played June 15-19 at Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane, Scotland:
Jin Jeong def. James Byrne, 5 and 4
Jin Jeong def. Matthew Nixon, 5 and 4
James Byrne def. Chris Paisley, 2 and 1
Matthew Nixon def. Rhys Enoch, 3 and 2
Jin Jeong def. Paul Cutler, 3 and 2
James Byrne def. Edouard Espana, 2 and 1
Chris Paisley def. Andrea Pavan, 5 and 4
Round of 16
Matthew Nixon def. Tommy Fleetwood, 1 up
Rhys Enoch def. Sebastian MacLean, 2 and 1
Jin Jeong def. Tom Lewis, 1 up
Paul Cutler def. Yuki Usami, 3 and 2
Edouard Espana def. Alan Dunbar, 19 holes
James Byrne def. Alex Christie, 2 and 1
Chris Paisley def. Billy Hemstock, 19 holes
Andrea Pavan def. Darren Wright, 1 up
Round of 32
Tommy Fleetwood def. Rasmus Lykke-Kjeldsen, 4 and 3
Matthew Nixon def. Peter Baunsoe, 3 and 2
Sebastian MacLean def. Henrik Norlander, 1 up
Rhys Enoch def. Jordan Findlay, 19 holes
Tom Lewis def. Jonathan Hurst, 2 and 1
Jin Jeong def. Romain Wattel, 4 and 3
Paul Cutler def. Michael Stewart, 1 up
Yuki Usami def. Kieran Pratt, 6 and 4
Alan Dunbar def. James Fox, 2 and 1
Edouard Espana def. Stiggy Hodgson 5 and 4
Alex Christie def. Alexis Szappanos, 19 holes
James Byrne def. Stephan Jaeger, 1 up
Billy Hemstock def. Are Friestad, 4 and 3
Chris Paisley def. Toby Burden, 2 and 1
Andrea Pavan def. Morten Orum Madsen, 1 up
Darren Wright def. Jose Maria Joia, 2 and 1
Round of 64
Tommy Fleetwood def. Andrew Shakespear, 2 and 1
Rasmus Lykke-Kjeldsen def. Xavier Feyaerts, 1 up
Peter Baunsoe def. Laurie Canter, 1 up
Matthew Nixon def. Clement Berardo, 4 and 2
Sebastian MacLean def. Ben Campbell, 2 and 1
Henrik Norlander def. Clement Sordet, 5 and 3
Rhys Enoch def. Philip McLean, 2 and 1
Jordan Findlay def. James White, 2 and 1
Tom Lewis def. Alex Ching, 3 and 2
Jonathan Hurst def. Mervin Rocchi, 4 and 3
Jin Jeong def. Toni Hakula, 2 up
Romain Wattel def. Trent Whitekiller, 1 up
Michael Stewart def. Philipp Westermann, 4 and 3
Paul Cutler def. Jonathan Bell, 4 and 3
Kieran Pratt def. Emilio Cuartero, 2 up
Yuki Usami def. Leo Lespinasse, 5 and 4
James Fox def. Paul Shields, 2 and 1
Alan Dunbar def. Michael Buttacavoli, 2 and 1
Edouard Espana def. Matthew Southgate, 19 holes
Stiggy Hodgson def. Tom Boys, 4 and 3
Alex Christie def. Olivier Rozner, 1 up
Alexis Szappanos def. Mu Hu, 1 up
Stephan Jaeger def. Oliver Farr, 5 and 4
James Byrne def. Tiago Rodrigues, 5 and 4
Are Friestad def. Leonardo Motta, 4 and 2
Billy Hemstock def. Scott Crichton, 3 and 2
Chris Paisley def. Mattia Miloro, 3 and 2
Charlie Cossins def. Toby Burden, 1 up
Morten Orum Madsen def. Nino Bertasio, 1 up
Andrea Pavan def. Elias Bertheussen, 1 up
Darren Wright def. Warren Harmston, 4 and 3
Jose Maria Joia def. Ian Winstanley, 1 up