ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Jin Jeong, 20, winner of the Silver Medal for low amateur at the Open, has had quite the summer on Scottish links courses. The South Korean, who now lives and practices in Melbourne, Australia, won the British Amateur Championship at Muirfield, too.
Jeong drove the final green at St Andrews and holed a 25-foot putt for eagle to finish 4-under-par and tied 14th. He beat Tiger Woods by one shot. Is it hard to believe he’s the top Asian in the championship, he was asked? “It’s hard to believe I’m at St Andrews,” he said laughing. “The crowds clapped me all week. I’ll never forget. It’s a dream come true. St. Andrews means everything to me.”
In practice rounds, Jeong picked the brains of Davis Love, Lucas Glover and Robert Allenby. His homework paid off in rounds of 68, 70, 74 and 72. It wasn’t the only advice he’s been getting. He’s been sampling the local delicacies with mixed feelings. “Haggis came out the other day for breakfast,” he said. “But my coach (and caddie) said not to try it,” Jeong said laughing. “I tried to eat black pudding, too, but that was tough. But I like fish and chips.” At last, some good news for the Scottish visitors bureau.
Jeong speaks quietly but confidently and his English is clearly improving from spending time in Melbourne and in media centers. He started the week ranked 1,360th in the world, but his generation is on the march. He has good company, too. His victory at the British Amateur completed a grand slam of the amateur majors by Korean-born players, following wins by Byeong-Hun An in the U.S. Amateur and by Han Chang-Won in the 2009 Asian Amateur.
Y.E. Yang’s victory at last year’s PGA Championship could be the catalyst to further success for Korea’s Generation Tiger — the twenty-somethings that grew up idolizing the World No. 1.
“Y.E.’s win was really big news in Korea,” Jeong said. “Everyone was going crazy about it. It has given us all a lot of confidence. But actually even before he won the PGA, I was thinking I can win major tournaments in the future.”
How’s that for the confidence of youth?