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Who is the youngest golfer to compete at the US Open?

One of the most famous majors on the tour, the U.S. Open is a signature event. Yet, why is it so special, and who is the youngest in history to play in it?

One of the most famous majors on the tour, the U.S. Open is a signature event. Yet, why is it so special, and who is the youngest in history to play in it?

In just two days the 2024 U.S Open will be upon us and all eyes will be on the tournament being played at the famous Pinehurst No. 2 course in North Carolina. With more than 10,000 entries via the USGA’s local qualifying events, it is the culmination of a massive effort by both professionals and amateurs alike, something that makes it a major like no other. Indeed, that very structure has at times offered up a few surprises when it comes to who has played in the tournament that was established in 1895.

Andy Zhang was just a boy when he played in the U.S. Open

Hard to believe but true. Today 25-year-old Andy Zhang is a professional golfer, however, when Zhang first came to the attention of golf fans, he was anything but that. Indeed, after growing up in China the then 14-year-old found himself thrust into the spotlight in a way that nobody could imagined. Yet, before we get to that, let’s go back to the moment that started it all. At the age of six years old, Zhang was introduced to the sport by his father, an avid recreational golfer. Little could they have known that an evening visit to a two-tiered driving range in Beijing would lead to an encounter that would shape his son’s future.

On that fateful day, a South Korean coach named An Qi Huan happened to witness Zhang’s first swings. Recognizing the raw talent displayed by the young golfer, Huan approached Zhang’s father and offered to guide and train Zhang on his journey. Looking back, Zhang reflects on this fortuitous encounter’s pivotal role in his life, remarking, “If he hadn’t been there that day, I would not be here, and I would still be in China going to school every day.

Recognizing her son’s extraordinary abilities, Zhang’s mother took him to the United States when he was 10 years old so he could compete in tournaments and continue his training at the Leadbetter Academy in Florida. In 2012, fate intervened, and Zhang was allowed to compete in the prestigious U.S. Open despite losing a playoff qualifying event due to the fact that Paul Casey withdrew because of injury. Zhang seized the chance and made history as one the youngest golfer ever to compete in the championship. “Before I got the news, I was trying to act cool,” Zhang said after finding out that he was invited to participate in the tournament. “When I found out I was in, I started screaming and gave my mom and caddie hugs. It was one of my best moments.

Following his remarkable debut, Zhang’s star continued to rise. He committed to playing college golf for the University of Florida, choosing them over other esteemed institutions such as Oklahoma State, Texas, and Florida State. Today, as a seasoned 25-year-old golfer, Zhang is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a young prodigy who defied the odds and exceeded expectations. With a #7 ranking in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Zhang recently turned professional and is poised for further achievements and memorable moments on the fairways.