As teenage experiences go, they don’t come much bigger than they did for Andy Zhang, the 14-year-old Chinese golfer has been competing in the U.S. Open this week.
Born in Shandong Province, bred in Beijing and based in Florida, Zhang’s appearance has made the headlines. Said to be the youngest ever golfer at the tournament, he has also provoked a debate as to whether he should be competing in a major at all.
He has the support of the legendary Tiger Woods.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
“It’s not too young if you can do it,” said Woods, who won his first major when Zhang was seven months-old. “That’s the great thing about this game, it’s not handed to you. You have to go out and put up the numbers and he did.”
“He shot the scores he needed to qualify and move on and he did and he’s here playing on the biggest stage. Just think about the experience he’s going to gain playing in this event. How well that’s going to serve him playing junior events and high school events.”
It may help that Zhang does not look like someone just entering his teenage years. Six foot tall with a swing speed of 115 mph, he has the power to compete with his seniors.
“I was on the first tee, I was like, just please don’t hit a hundred yard slice off the first tee and I was shaking really hard. But I hit a great shot,” Zhang said after his first round.
On paper, that round was a sobering experience. He dropped three shots on the first hole and followed that triple bogey with a double bogey. The three single bogeys that followed on holes three, four and five must have felt like successes in comparison.
So after five holes, he was already eight over par. It wasn’t looking pretty, but then he went round the remaining 13 holes dropping just one shot more.
“It was really tough. I didn’t hit the ball quite well, but my putting was okay. So, but the course is really tough. So I’m actually okay with what I shot today,” Zhang said. “Seven over par 79. At least I broke 80.”
It was a very encouraging performance that did more than hint that Zhang has the maturity, mentality and the means to become a star.
Zhang went two better in his second round, but failed to make the cut. But when you have a 14 year-old at the U.S. Open, one thing you can say with some confidence is that there will be other chances.