Atlanta, United States: Korean Yang Gunn produced one of the most stunning upsets in US Amateur Championship history when he emerged triumphant in the 114th edition of the event.
A lowly 776th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the start of the week, the 20-year-old Yang defeated Canadian Corey Conners 2 & 1 in the 36-hole final over Atlanta Athletic Club’s 7,208-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.
“I was just trying to make it to the match-play portion, really,” said Yang, a San Diego State University sophomore who had back surgery in May 2013. “That was the goal, first of all. And then when I made it to the match play, I was like: ‘Maybe I can do this’.
“I was just trying to go through by every single match, just trying to play my game and trying to see how it goes, and I got the trophy. So, I’m really excited and really happy about it.”
Yang, who grew up in Korea and played competitive amateur golf in Australia for five years, is the second Korean-born player to win the US Amateur, following in the footsteps of An Byeong-hun, who claimed the title at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2009.
Conners, 22, a recent graduate of Kent State University in Ohio who lost to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick in the 2013 semi-finals, was vying to become the first Canadian winner since Gary Cowan in 1971. He was the first player since Patrick Cantlay in 2010 (semi-finals) and 2011 (final) to advance to at least the semi-finals in back-to-back years.
Yang, who was playing in his first US Amateur after qualifying on July 21 at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, California, held a one-up lead through the morning 18 holes. He never trailed in the match.
“I haven’t won a tournament for a long time, maybe five or six years,” said Yang. “I was going through my injury, also. I was just trying to play my game. Obviously, it just popped in my head that if I beat Corey, then I win the trophy. But, I was just trying to concentrate and just trying to hit balls and just put it next to the hole and make the putt.”
Yang receives a gold medal and custody of the Havemeyer Trophy for the next year. By virtue of reaching the US Amateur Championship final, Yang and Conners each earned an exemption into the 2015 US Open – provided they remain amateurs – and a likely invitation to the 2015 Masters Tournament.
The champion receives an exemption into the 2015 British Open Championship. All quarter-finalists earn an exemption into the 2015 US Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club.