Player Interview: U.S. Amateur Champion Byeong‑Hun An
TULSA, OK (August 30, 2009)--Following is a transcript of the post round interview with 2009 U.S. Amateur Champion Byeong‑Hun An, courtesy the USGA.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Byeong‑Hun An, the 2009 United States Amateur champion. Tell us what it feels like to be U.S. Amateur champion.
BYEONG‑HUN AN: It was awesome, and then I think it makes it more special because the title is the youngest winner, I think, it makes it more important and special. I'm feeling great, and I can't believe that I just won. I said it before, but my goal was to make the first round, and I think I got lucky. Yeah, I'm happy.
Q. Why can't you believe that you won?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I haven't won the last three years, that's why. And then because it's the biggest tournament for amateurs. Everybody has thought about winning this, and so did I. I couldn't believe I just won.
Now I started realizing that I won after I'm holding this trophy, yeah.
Q. After you gave a couple of strokes back to start the second 18, you really seized control again by winning a few holes there. Can you talk about what happened during that stretch, especially on 11 where he actually hit closer to the pin than you did and you made the par?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Yeah. I mean, after the first 18 I tried not to think about the first 18 before I teed off on the second 18. I was trying to think about, now it's the final now, like I have to start again.
Actually on No.11, I hit a great shot there, and then all I wanted to do was hit on the green and try to make the par. If he makes it, it's fine. He made a birdie, but all I wanted to do was make a par, but somehow it went in and it was right at it.
Q. Next hole on No.12 you hit your drive to the left and I heard one of the marshals say, no way does he have a window to the green, and apparently you had a window to the green because you found one.
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Yeah, I had a little window there, and then I saw a shot in the bunker. I could have laid up, but I think there were pretty big room there to get it through the trees, at least in the bunker in front of it. Yeah, I don't think it was that hard of a shot to make it through to get to the green.
Q. Just wondering, at what point in the match did you realize that Ben didn't have his game? He obviously was struggling out there, and once you knew that, did you apply any new pressure to him?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Like Ben, I mean, I didn't play well to actually‑‑ he made more mistakes than me. I think that's how it went.
I think he was a great player. And then at the end, too, I think he was a great player. Maybe because I played bad, it didn't feel like he was playing bad, too. (Laughter.)
Q. You just mentioned in your mind you played bad. Do you think today was a championship‑like match?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Yeah, the pressure is, yeah, definitely. And then we both‑‑ I don't know, we both played bad‑‑ we were both exhausted after all the rounds, and then you have to play 36 holes today, and then obviously that makes people tired. I think that's why we both made a lot of mistakes on the course today, yeah.
Q. You just talked about how fatigued you guys are. How tired are you right now, and has it dawned on you how much golf you've played this week?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Right now at least I won, so I can't feel anything in my legs right now. Maybe I will get tired after I get back, but it was everyone, I guess, just really tired, playing 11 rounds in nine days. Yeah, I'm really tired, but I can't feel it.
Q. Would you say you're more tired physically or mentally?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Both, physically and mentally, too. I couldn't get loose during the round today. I had to keep focusing on my shots, and that's why I made it tired.
Q. Was there any point in the match you knew you had it, that today was your day? Was there a certain point during the afternoon?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Not really, but on the shot on 15, that gave me a lot of confidence towards this afternoon's match. Starting that hole, I mean, I had a good feeling. I mean, my shots were good, and my shots were going straight at least where I wanted to be, so I think that hole was pretty big. After that hole I had confidence on every single hole.
Q. I talked to you yesterday about this event back in Korea and how big it is. How happy will they be back in Korea to find out that you've won?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Maybe‑‑ I don't know, I think a lot of people, I guess, a lot of golfers. There are a lot of golfers in Korea, too. They'll all be happy now, and now they can‑‑ like when Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship, a lot of people were happy for him because he won it and they all saw there's a possibility to win now bigger tournaments. I think a lot of people are going to play golf now and come over here and play golf.
Q. Were you getting a lot of messages of encouragement last night and before the match today?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I got about 100 messages yesterday, text messages, and I got 150 emails. They say like ‘congrats,’ and ‘you're doing great.’ But I still thought I have one more day‑‑ I still had one more goal to accomplish. I tried to not ignore all the texts, but I replied to who I had to, to all my friends. They gave me a lot of boost, and it helped me, too.
Q. You made a big decision to come all the way to the United States and move here and practice and play. Does winning this kind of justify it all to you, having made a big sacrifice?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: 100 percent, yeah. It was a good decision, I think. Thanks to my dad telling me to come over here and just play golf. It was definitely worth it. I guess I'll try to win the bigger ones now, make it more worth it.
Q. What went into the decision three and a half years ago to come to the United States? What made you finally decide to come here?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I think the weather and then the golf facilities. It's too cold over there and it's snowing and I can't play. Here there's a lot of golf courses you can play on, and the ranges, too, are pretty good. And a lot of golf tournaments.
Q. You said you feel like you didn't play as well as you could have today, but it seemed to me that you were in kind of a rhythm, that you were playing faster, you weren't standing over the ball for a long time. Am I imagining that?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Yeah, because I was trying to keep my rhythm going. I didn't want to like wait and play slower because I didn't think it would make it better. So I tried to keep my routine going on, same as the first day. That helped, too.
Q. What are your other hobbies or interests? What else golf what do you like to do?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Texting (Laughter), like other teenagers, or Facebooking, or listening to music.
Q. How good do you think that trophy is going to look in your parents' trophy case with the two Olympic medals, three Olympic medals?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Awesome, in one word. It'll look great, definitely.
Q. Your mother lives in China. How will you inform her? Do you think she already knows?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I think my dad called her already, yeah. Maybe, I don't know what time it is here now, but I think he called her because it's pretty big news. Huge, yeah.
Q. How often do you get to see her? Does she come to Florida?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: She's coming to Florida soon, in about maybe ten days, yeah.
Q. When was the last time you saw her?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I think it was about, I don't know, like five months ago. It was in January, so seven months ago.
Q. Did you see her here?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: It was here, yeah.
Q. Sort of silly, but sometimes guys are superstitious. Were you worried that if you changed clothes after 18 that you might change your luck?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: No. I don't have like superstitions or whatever that is. At least if it feels uncomfortable I would change it, but it feels pretty good. Last night I tried it on, so that's why I changed, yeah. It was pretty good, I think.
Q. I guess another follow‑up. Since coming to America what's been the biggest adjustment? Has it been food, just the American society? What stands out the most?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I like everything basically. I like the food, I like the people here, I like what they're doing. I like everything here, yeah. I like everything here like I do in Korea, yeah.
Q. What's been the biggest difference from Korea?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: English. (Laughter.) Grammar, yeah, is hard to learn, definitely.
Q. How was your English when you moved here?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I couldn't speak like‑‑ yeah, it was pretty bad.
Q. There was a lot of international students at the academy?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: Yeah, they helped me. I was hanging out with them so I started learning some new words. Yeah, that helped, all the‑‑ yeah.
Q. How often does your dad caddie for you and what does it mean having him on the bag? Did he give you any good advice throughout the tournament? Do you listen to him?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: I did listen to him sometimes. He was talking too much out there, but it's okay, yeah. I was like, "Stop talking, dad, I'm focused." He was talking about wind is left to right now and you've got to keep it low. "I know that, dad." He's saying the same thing all day, yeah. But I think it helped, yeah, definitely. Every hole was the same; he was talking a lot. "I've got this, dad, I've got this." And then he was still talking. Of course it helped, definitely.
Q. After winning this at age 17, suppose in the future, maybe 10 years from now, Southern Hills were to get a U.S. Open. How would you feel about coming back here for a U.S. Open when you're an old man in your 20s?
BYEONG‑HUN AN: For me now this is the biggest tournament that I've played, so maybe back then it was the same, like I would have the same feeling. Of course I'll want to win maybe later. I think it would be great, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you very much.