14-year old delighted at US Open

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Zhang REUTERS Amateur Andy Zhang of China tees off on the first hole during the first round of the 2012 US Open golf tournament on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California June 14, 2012. Zhang became the youngest player to ever compete in a US Open when Britain's Paul Casey withdrew.

Andy Zhang's historic US Open appearance ended after two rounds on Friday, but the Beijing-born 14-year-old departed The Olympic Club cherishing an “exciting, unforgettable” experience.

“Everything I did, I had never done it before, and it's just a great experience,” said Zhang, who was believed to be the youngest golfer ever to compete in the US Open.

Now based in Florida, Zhang said his late callup into the tournament as an alternate would boost his junior golf career - and give him a goal as he tries to return next year.

Zhang said he agreed with 17-year-old Beau Hossler's assessment that a first US Open appearance was a tremendous learning experience.

Hossler played at Congressional last year in his first US Open start and on Friday found himself atop the leaderboard briefly en route to a tie for ninth through 36 holes.

“There's a huge difference between the first day and the second day,” Zhang said. “First day I was on the tee, I was shaking a lot and even after like a few holes I was still really nervous, and today I was on the tee - it got a lot better.”

“You kind of can block out the crowds a little bit and everything else. If I come back here next year, I think I'll do a lot better.”

Zhang had no problem picking out his highlight of the week, holing a putt from the fringe at 18 on Thursday.

“That's the loudest cheer I heard like for my life from other people,” he said, although he could name plenty of other postcard moments.

“Standing actually right next to Bubba Watson, watching him hitting the tee shot,” Zhang said, who also enjoyed the free food and the laundry service.

During the week, Zhang revealed that one of his golf goals is to play for his native China at the 2016 Olympics, although so far nothing has been done officially to pursue that aim.

Before the tournament, he gamely answered an interview question in Mandarin, although he admitted that since living in Florida since he was 10, he doesn't feel comfortable in the language.

“Do I have to,” a tired Zhang said when asked for a quote in Mandarin on Friday. “I don't feel like my Chinese is as good as my English.” - Sapa-AFP


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