Golf Extras
Golf Travel
By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Not your average 14-year-old
Among the players who Andy Zhang (pictured) beat
were Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Steve Marino.
San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) - There aren't many people who can attest to what Andy Zhang is doing this week at the U.S. Open.

There are 155 other competitors at The Olympic Club this week, and nearly most of them were playing competitive golf at that point in their lives. Some may have already won a national championship.

Zhang got into the field at The Olympic Club when Paul Casey withdrew due to an injury on Monday. One of Zhang's first orders of business was to sign up for a practice round.

When he looked at the sign in sheet, there it was. An open spot alongside Masters champion Bubba Watson.

How could Zhang not put his name there?

Zhang wasn't the only one who had fun on Tuesday. Watson enjoyed the meeting, too.

"It was fun getting to know him. He was nervous...But it was cool. Hearing the story, talking to his caddie and him about how they got in and what all happened for them to get in," Watson said. "It was fun getting to meet him and watching a talent like that. He's a big boy for 14, and he can hit it good."

On Thursday afternoon, the reality of the situation really set in.

Zhang started triple-bogey, double-bogey. Who cares, I say. The kid is playing the U.S. stinking Open!

"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 stated.

What were you doing at that age? If you're anything like me, you were celebrating your grade school graduation, playing stickball and street hockey, and just doing normal things kids do.

I, for one, was lucky to break 110 at that age. Some of my friends would say I'd be lucky to break that score now, but I'm bold enough, or maybe stupid enough, to think I could shoot that at The Olympic Club this week.

As for Zhang, his struggles continued with bogeys at three, four and five. So after five holes of the U.S. Open, Zhang was eight-over par.

Guess what? He played the final 13 holes in just one-over par.

That's right. The kid went one-over for his last 13 holes. Along the way, he collected a pair of birdies.

Zhang stopped the bleeding with his first birdie of the championship at the drivable par-four seventh. Of course, he gave that shot right back with a bogey on the eighth.

The 14-year-old, who is originally from China, ran off seven consecutive pars from the ninth. He faltered to a double-bogey on the par-five 16th, but closed his round in style.

Zhang birdied the last to break 80. That's a huge deal for the youngster.

"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."

Among the players who Zhang beat were Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, a five-time winner on the European Tour, and Steve Marino, who tied for 14th at the Masters in 2010.

Zhang should just be glad he isn't Michael Allen's son.

Allen said this on Tuesday about Zhang qualifying for the Open: "I'm baffled. I can't imagine. I wouldn't let my 14-year-old kid go backpacking over the weekend, besides letting him go to the U.S. Open. My God.

"Well, you watch some of these young kids, they're so good and the kids that qualified with me, how far they hit it, I'm sure this little 14-year-old punk hit it past me already so -- oh, excuse me, kid."

Allen was kidding, of course, but how many of you feel exactly how he does?


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