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U.S. Open: 14-year-old Andy Zhang wonders what the fuss is about

Andy Zhang has some work to do on his autograph. And taming a media throng will come in time. Like most 14-year-olds, the youngest competitor in U.S. Open history is new to the concept of other humans fussing over him.

The polite Florida teen, by way of Beijing, will have no choice but to embrace the limelight this week. When Paul Casey withdrew, Zhang was plucked from the alternate list. Suddenly he found himself on the other side of the ropes, playing a practice round with Aaron Baddeley and Masters champion Bubba Watson.

“I didn’t know that you guys would care about me that much . . . thanks,” Zhang told the reporters gathered to speak to him after Tuesday’s practice round at Olympic Club.  “Before I got here I asked Chris if I could go to the range and ask for autographs,” Zhang said of his manager and caddie, Chris Gold. “He said, ‘No, you’re giving out autographs!’ ”

Zhang was born the year Tiger Woods won his first major championship in 1997. So it was only natural that when the youngster met his idol for the first time Tuesday, nerves bubbled to the surface.  “I’m a Tiger fan. I grew up watching him on TV. When the accident happened I was like really depressed,” Zhang said. “This morning I shook his hand and I was like ‘Wow, I just shook Tiger’s hand.'”  Later in the day, Woods was asked about his own memories of being a budding 14-year-old golf prodigy. Woods didn’t even attempt to qualify for a U.S. Open until he was 15.

“He went out there and went through both (qualifying) stages and did it,” he said. “It’s not too young if you can do it. 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.”
Zhang, not yet a high school freshman, is a year younger than Tadd Fujikawa was at the 2006 Open.

At 6-foot and 175 pounds, Andy Zhang doesn’t look like a youngster walking the Olympic fairways. But he admittedly felt some nerves as he stepped to the first tee Tuesday.  “I was actually shaking a little bit,” he said. “I guess I’ll get used to it.”
All of this will surely take some getting used to. Particularly the treacherous rough and sloping fairways unlike anything he ever has seen.

“It’s definitely the hardest course I’ve ever played. You don’t see rough like this in Florida,” Zhang said.  Gold, a 25-year-old mini-tour player who began working with Zhang full-time five months ago, said he marvels at the kid’s attitude. Though he showed some nerves Tuesday, he wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Zhang figure things out and make the cut.  “I honestly think he’s going to be a star,” Gold said.

via U.S. Open: 14-year-old Andy Zhang wonders what the fuss is about – San Jose Mercury News.


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