Korean Han dreams big

Korean Han dreams big

Augusta Masters experience was incomparable

Korean Han dreams big

TEEN SENSATION: Han Chong-won says playing at Augusta Masters was an incomparable experience. DH PHOTO

The phenomenal victory where he turned around Woods’ final round lead was the first time an Asian had triumphed in a Major.

On April 8 this year, two more Koreans -- Han Chong-won and An Byeong-hun -- created another slice of history when they teed off along with the elite at the Augusta Masters. “It is one the happiest moments in my life,” said Han, an amateur golfer, through an interpretor at the Karnataka Golf Association.

Han was here to take part in the Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy, but due to the volcanic ash problem that prevented many European players from reaching here, the tournament had to be cancelled. “It was an incomparable experience, especially so early in my career. I had a chance to see all the best players in the world and learn by just seeing them. Honestly, I never hoped I would play the Masters even as a professional and to have got the chance as an amateur is unbelievable. It was simply fantastic.”

Burdened by the heavy task, Han fired a dismal 11-under in the opening two rounds to miss the cut by a mile.

The 18-year-old had earlier produced a solid performance in the Asian Amateur Championship to seal his place for Augusta. As part of a deal between the Augusta National Golf Club and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the Asian Amateur Championship was launched last year where the winner gets a direct ticket to the Masters.

The champion and runner-up will also play in the final qualifying round for the year’s third Major -- British Open -- getting a two-round exemption.

At AAC in Mission Hills last year, Han blew every challenge away when he triumphed by five strokes for a four-day total of 12-under 276. Talking about his game, Han said it was his short game that gave him an upperhand. “My drives are decent but short game and putting are my strengths. I always believe game around the greens is crucial for success and I am trying to focus more on it.”

And just like many of his Asian contemporaries, Han intends to first play on Asian circuit before making the gradual progress to Europe and finally the United States. “I plan to turn professional at the end of this year. My first step would be the Asian circuit, followed by Europe and PGA. Hopefully, things will go as per plans.”