Andy Zhang makes professional tournament debut in Asia
Youngest US Open player lines up in Korea Open
Chinese boy wonder Andy Zhang has come back down to earth after becoming the youngest golfer to play in the US Open.
It's taken a while, and now the much-hyped 14-year-old makes his debut in a professional tournament in Asia this week at the Kolon Korea Open in Cheonan.
Zhang is still an amateur and only turns 15 in December, but he announced his intentions in June when he took his place alongside the world's best professionals at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Zhang, who now lives in Florida and attends an online school while training at David Leadbetter's academy, shot a credible nine-over-par 79 in the first round but missed the cut following a second-round 78.
"It was a crazy time," Zhang said, admitting it was difficult to come down to earth. "I had my ups and downs. For at least two or three months I played tournaments and the results weren't as good as I would have liked. Then, about two months ago, I went to the European Masters and, although I didn't make the cut, I felt my game was coming back."
Zhang arrived in South Korea two weeks ago and has since been sightseeing and practising at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club, venue for the OneAsia tournament.
Zhang first started playing as a six-year-old in Beijing, when he was spotted by a Korean coach who thought the youngster had natural talent and took him under his wing.
His parents took him to the United States at 10 to take part in an age-group competition, and when Zhang walked away with the honours they decided to enrol him with Leadbetter, who has described the youngster as one of the best prospects he has ever seen.
Despite high expectations, Zhang has set himself realistic goals this week against a field that includes some of the best golfers in Asia-Pacific - as well as Korean major winner Yang Yong-eun.
"If I can keep to around par for the first two rounds and hopefully make the cut, I'll be very happy," he said. "Two or three over for the tournament would be pretty good."
Despite his youth, Zhang can hit the ball a mile and also possesses a deft touch around the greens - attributes he'll need in spades on the hilly and scenic course around 85 kilometres south of the capital.
Zhang, with braces and American-accented English he admits is now better than his Chinese, says he won't play any more tournaments on this visit, but is looking forward to playing in his homeland in the future.
"Definitely," he said. "I obviously want to get as much experience as possible, but I still have a lot to learn."