By Nick Masuda, Golfweek
SAN FRANCISCO (June 12, 2012) -- In the summer of 2008, Hui Li booked a roundtrip ticket from Beijing to San Diego - rewarding her 10-year-old son for his hard work on the golf course by entering, among others, the U.S. Kids World Championship.
The flight back to China never happened.
And that son is the now 14-year-old Andy Zhang - the youngest golfer to ever play in a U.S. Open.
"He looked at me and said, 'Mom, I don't want to go back to China. I want to stay here. I love the golf courses," said Li, who speaks broken English, but enough to communicate with the well-wishers and media following her son during his first practice round at The Olympic Club on Tuesday morning.
"We are back in California, where it all started."
Zhang, who won that U.S. Kids title in his age bracket, was a bit out of his comfort zone despite wanting to stay.
"It was really awkward, especially with the language," said Zhang, who will play a practice round on Wednesday at 1:21 p.m. PDT. "I didn't know any Chinese families. But, after about a half a year, I got used to it."
Now that Zhang has become acclimated to the life of a golfer in the U.S., Li recently decided to enroll him in Halstrom High School - an online school based in San Diego. It allows him to practice all day - he starts most days at 7 a.m. - and then study all night. He'll start his freshman year in the fall.
"School in China is much harder," Li said. "He studies very hard. But golf is much harder here, so he studies hard on that, too."