Gunn Yang wins US amateur title after losing his scholarship

Korean's form was poor going into the event, having not won a tournament for six years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 9:05pm

Not long ago, Gunn Yang's game was such a mess that his college coach took away his scholarship.

Might want to reconsider that decision.

The 20-year-old South Korean never trailed while completing an improbable run to the US Amateur title on Sunday, beating Canada's Corey Conners 2&1 at Atlanta Athletic Club.

I had not won a tournament in a long time, maybe like five or six years
Gunn Yang

"I had not won a tournament in a long time, maybe like five or six years," Yang said.

At No 776, he became the lowest-ranked player in the world amateur standings to capture the country's biggest title for non-professional golfers. Along the way, he beat five players inside the top 100, including the 44th-ranked Conners.

Yang, who lived in Australia for five years and now plays at San Diego State, pushed his lead to 2-up with four to play by rolling in an 18-foot birdie putt at No 14. He closed out the match with a tap-in par at No 17, the 35th hole of the gruelling day.

The afternoon round was halted by a rain delay of an hour and a half.

"I had never heard of him before," Conners said. "He obviously had a great week."

Indeed, Yang was one of the most unlikely champions in the history of the 119-year-old event. A second-year student, he has played in just four US college events, his career sidetracked by a herniated disc that required laser surgery. Just three weeks ago, he withdrew from the California State Open after playing the first nine holes at six over.

Now, at the home club of Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur of them all, Yang hoisted the Havemeyer Trophy.

Does he think he'll get that scholarship back, too?

"Better," Yang said, breaking into a big smile. "Or else I'm going to transfer."

Conners had a chance to push the match to the limit with a 15-foot birdie attempt at No 17. It slid by the right side of the cup.

Yang, whose 18-footer to win the match caught the right lip and spun out, knocked in what was nothing more than a gimme par to wrap up the title. He pumped his fist, hugged his caddie and let out a scream.

"He didn't really have any weaknesses out there," Conners said. "He didn't give me any openings to climb through."

The loss came one week after another Canadian, 16-year-old Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, was beaten in the final of the US Women's Amateur.

This was the second straight US Amateur final featuring two international players. The 22-year-old Conners, who played at Kent State, reached the semi-finals last year and again came up short of becoming the first Canadian winner since 1971.

Instead, it was Yang joining An Byeong-hun from 2009 as the only winners from South Korea.

The match was tight all the way and in the afternoon round at the par-three seventh, the Canadian found himself in the sand. Another bogey gave Yang a two-up advantage.

Conners cut into the lead with a 10-foot birdie at the 10th as ominous clouds rolled over the course, thunder rumbling in the distance. After both players teed off at the 11th, a downpour halted the match.

When play resumed, Yang missed a couple of chances to stretch his lead. He finally converted at No 14, and protected his advantage with a brilliant up-and-down over a pond at the par-three 15th.

Not bad for a guy who didn't even bring enough clothes to make it through the week without washing.

"I took three shorts and four shirts," Yang said. "That was it."