As An learned, making history can be grueling

August 31, 2009

__TULSA, OKLA.--They only engrave your name on the Havemeyer Trophy, not the number of  birdies or bogeys you made during the 36-hole final match. That should allow__Byeong-Hun An, the 2009 U.S. Amateur champion, to rest a little easier should he be nervous about how his victory yesterday at Southern Hills GC will be remembered.

Truth be told, history is far more likely to recall what the 17-year-old South Korean import accomplished--becoming the youngest winner of the USGA's oldest event yesterday--than how he accomplished it. Shooting the equivalent of nine over par with the usual match-play concessions will fade with time, particularly when you consider the convincing 7-and-5 final score.

The saving grace for An was the fact his opponent, Clemson fifth-year senior Ben Martin, struggled even more with his game on Sunday, hitting just nine of 24 fairways and only 12 of 31 greens while shooting 15 over on the day.

"As tough as this golf course is, you've got to be hitting quality shots," Martin said. "I was just kind of out there searching for something and never found it, especially in that second 18."

To say their collective play during the championship match was ragged would be an understatement. An and Martin made just five birdies between them, offset by 23 bogeys and three double bogeys. Amazingly, on just three of the 31 holes did both players safely hit their drives in the fairway and approach shots on the green.

"We were both exhausted after all the rounds, and then you have to play 36 holes today," said An. "Obviously that makes people tired. I think that's why we both made a lot of mistakes on the course today."

Indeed, it was obvious that, after six grueling days of competition on a golf course that tested both the physical and mental aspects of their games, the last two men standing simply couldn't stand for very much longer. (And to think what it might have been like that the 95-degree heat at the start of the week lingered through the weekend, instead of the low 80s that arrived for the weekend.)

"It was as much mental fatigue as anything," said Martin's father/caddie, Jim. "He was indecisive about club selection. He'd pull something out and then put it back in. That hadn't happened to him all week."

Sure Martin would have loved to have won, but the consolation prizes for having reached the finals--spots in next year's Masters and U.S. Open--are sure to soothe a bruised ego.

As for An, he'll be making his way to Augusta National and Pebble Beach, too, as well as taking a trip to St. Andrews for the British Open. Two months later, he expects to arrive on campus at Cal-Berkley, where he has verbally committed to play golf for the Bears after graduating from high school next spring. Unlike the previous holder of the "youngest Amateur champion" label, Danny Lee, An says he has no intention of turning professional any time soon.

In his immediate future, An actually has another tournament to play. After spending a few days back home in Bradenton, Fla., catching up on the first week of school that he missed, An will drive to Jacksonville and play in the AJGA Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass Sept. 3-6.

"I'll enjoy this moment right now, but starting next week, ... I'll go back to the same mentality I had a few days ago before I played this tournament," An said. "I'll try to ignore [the expectations]. I've still got a long career to go. It's not done."

On the contrary, it's only just begun.