London, England: A new Asian star has emerged. Defying all odds, An Byeong-hun triumphed in the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
“This is life changing,” said the 23-year-old Korean, the first Asian winner since the tournament’s inception in 1955.
“It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t confident until I walked down 18. It’s like winning the fifth Major. Winning this gets me into so many events,” said the former US Amateur champion who is the son of Olympic medal-winning table tennis players.
An is only the third rookie to win the BMW PGA on his debut, following former Wentworth club professional Bernard Gallacher in 1969 and Scott Drummond in 2004.
As well as earning a cheque for €833,330 (about US$943,579), An has earned exemptions into next month’s US Open and July’s Open Championship.
With a closing seven-under-par 65, An posted a four-day aggregate of 21-under total to win by six shots from Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
For good measure, An’s score was a new under-par record, beating the 19-under totals posted by Anders Hansen in 2002 and Drummond in 2004.
An spent his formative years in Florida and joined the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton in 2005.
Four years later, An won America’s national Amateur championship after which he turned pro.
While An had his sights set on immediately joining the PGA Tour, he was advised to spend some time playing in Europe by Wally Uihlein, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Acushnet.
That advice has paid off handsomely with An also now in line to join Nick Price’s International Team for this year’s Presidents Cup in his native Korea.