Editor's note: A point of pride. The new U.S. Amateur champion attends my alma mater, San Diego State.
“I was just trying to make it to the match-play portion, really,” said Yang, a San Diego State University sophomore who had back surgery in May 2013.
“That was the goal, first of all. And then when I made it to the match play, I was like, maybe I can do this. I was just trying to go through by every single match, just trying to play my game and trying to see how it goes, and I got the trophy. So, I'm really excited and really happy about it.”
Yang, who grew up in Korea and played competitive amateur golf in Australia for five years, is the second Korean-born player to win the U.S. Amateur, joining Byeong-Hun “Ben” An, who claimed the title at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., in 2009.
Conners, 22, a recent graduate of Kent State University in Ohio who lost to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick in the 2013 semifinals, was vying to become the first Canadian winner since Gary Cowan in 1971. He was the first player since Patrick Cantlay in 2010 (semifinals) and 2011 (final) to advance to at least the semifinals in back-to-back years.
Yang, who was playing in his first U.S. Amateur after qualifying on July 21 at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, Calif., held a 1-up lead through the morning 18 holes. He never trailed in the match.
“I haven't won a tournament for a long time, like maybe five or six years,” said Gunn.
“I was going through my injury, also. I was just trying to play my game. Obviously, it just popped in my head that if I beat Corey, then I win the trophy. But, I was just trying to concentrate and just trying to hit balls and just put it next to the hole and make the putt.”