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Chinese prodigy Zhang set to make Asia debut

(Shanghai Daily)

11:19, October 18, 2012

(Photo from china.org.cn)

Chinese wunderkind Andy Zhang, who at age 14 this year became the youngest golfer ever to compete in the US Open, will play his first Asian professional tournament this week at OneAsia's Kolon Korea Open.

Zhang, an amateur who turns 15 in December, is hoping to continue an incredible year that saw him play alongside the world's best at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in June.

"It was a crazy time," Zhang said of the experience, noting it was tough to keep his feet on the ground after the competition.

"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," he said.

At 14 and 1/2 years, the Beijing-born, but Florida-based Zhang was the youngest player ever to compete in the US Open, which was first held in 1895.

In the first round he shot a credible 9-over par 79 - the same as US Masters champion Bubba Watson - but missed the cut after a second-round 78.

Despite the high hopes following an incredible year for the youngster, Zhang was setting himself realistic goals ahead of the 1 billion won (US$900,000) competition that starts today with some of the best golfers in the Asia-Pacific region, including major winner Y.E. Yang.

"If I can keep to around par for the first two rounds and hopefully make the cut, I'll be very happy," the youngster said. "Two or three over for the tournament would be pretty good."

The prodigy began playing golf seriously as a six-year-old in Beijing after being spotted by a Korean coach who thought Zhang had a natural talent. Zhang has lived in the United States since he was 10, and attends the IMG Golf Academy in Florida.

Ahead of the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club tournament, Zhang acknowledged the difficulties of the competition.

"The fairways are really narrow and the rough is extremely long around the greens," he said. "It's a pretty tough course."

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