By Paul Newberry
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- South Korea's Gunn Yang completed his improbable run to the U.S. Amateur title with a 2-and-1 victory against Canada's Corey Conners on Sunday.
At No. 776, Yang became the lowest-ranked player in the world amateur standings to win the country's biggest title for non-professional golfers. Along the way, he beat five players inside the top 100, including the 44th-ranked Conners.
The 20-year-old Yang, who lived in Australia for five years and now plays at San Diego State, never trailed in the 36-hole final at Atlanta Athletic Club, pushing his lead to 2 up with four to play by rolling in an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 14. He closed out the match with a tap-in par at No. 17, the 35th hole of the grueling day.
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The South Korean was 1 up after the morning round. Afternoon play was halted by a rain delay of 1 hour, 37 minutes.
Yang was one of the most unlikely champions in the history of the event, which was first held in 1895. A redshirt sophomore at San Diego State, he has played in just four college events, his career sidetracked by a herniated disk that required laser surgery. Just three weeks ago, he withdrew from the California Open after playing his first nine holes at 6-over.
Now, at the home club of Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur of them all, Yang hoisted the Havemeyer Trophy.
"I was just trying to build up my confidence," he said. "I never thought that I could get the U.S. Amateur right away, I mean, one year after the surgery. This is just a dream come true."
Conners never led in the match, but he had a chance to push it to the 36th hole with a 15-footer for birdie at No. 17. It slid by the right side of the cup, and he settled for par.
Yang, whose 18-footer to win the match caught the right lip of the cup and spun out, knocked in what was nothing more than a gimme par to wrap up the match. He pumped his fist, hugged his caddie and let out a scream.
Conners' loss came one week after another Canadian, Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, lost in the final of the U.S. Women's Amateur.