Last week I was fortunate to attend the men’s U.S. Open in San Francisco. Wednesday was a practice round day where fans were allowed to bring in cameras. I decided to follow Andy Zhang, the 14-year old Chinese kid who became the youngest golfer to ever qualify for the tournament.
In case you missed all the news about him, Zhang, who qualified as an alternate, learned Monday night that he had qualified to play in the Open because two other golfers had to withdraw because of injuries.
The New York Times has a pretty good write-up of Zhang’s journey here. Here’s an excerpt of Zhang’s story.
Zhang was introduced to the game at 6 ½ by his father, a recreational golfer who shoots in the high 90s. At the two-tiered driving range in Beijing where Zhang’s father took him, a South Korean coach, An Qi Huan, happened to see Zhang’s first swings. He told his father that Zhang had talent and offered to work with him. “If he hadn’t been there that day, I would not be here,” Zhang said. “I would still be in China going to school every day.”
At 10, Zhang traveled to the United States to participate in two junior tournaments and was transfixed by the quality and sheer number of courses. “I liked it a lot,” he said. “In China you don’t ever get to hit range balls off real grass. You have to hit it on a mat.” He added, “Golf hasn’t developed too much in China. It’s not really as good as here.”
Accompanied by his mother, Hui Li, Zhang moved to Florida to attend the IMG Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton.
Check out some of the photos below I took of Zhang, who looks very mature and has great skills for someone his age. Amazing.
Here’s a Youtube story about Andy:
Below is another Youtube video, with comments about Zhang from Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, and Rory McIlroy:
Zhang ended up missing the cut on one of the toughest U.S. Open courses in history where some of the world’s best golfers ran up very high scores, or missed the cut (Webb Simpson won with a +1 score).