An Byeong Hun

Olympic medal goal to be like mum and dad

An Byeong Hun was last year's European Tour Rookie of the Year and is currently the second highest-ranked Asian golfer.
An Byeong Hun was last year's European Tour Rookie of the Year and is currently the second highest-ranked Asian golfer. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Golf is set to make a return to the Olympic Gamesin Rio de Janeiro this year, more than a century since the last time it was included in 1904. It is a big thing to golfers around the world, but to a few individuals the event in Brazil is additionally special. Nicholas Tan finds out why.

South Korean An Byeong Hun has an unique claim to fame - his parents fell in love during the Olympics. And now, 28 years after they met, the golfer has the chance to follow in their footsteps by competing at sports' pinnacle event in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The 24-year-old's Chinese mother, Jiao Zhimin, and Korean father, Ahn Jae Hyung, first met at the 1986 Asian Games, representing their countries in table tennis. Their relationship then became serious at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

His parents have both made their mark on the grandest stage; she was a bronze (singles) and silver (doubles) medallist in Seoul, while he attained a doubles bronze in the same Games.

Describing qualifying for the Rio Olympics as "definitely in my schedule", he said: "It's definitely one of the majors for me, the goal is to get a medal obviously."

The Olympics will feature a 60-player field for both men and women, with each country limited to two entries. The cap is raised to four only if all the players are ranked within the top 15. An is currently ranked 26th in the world and his country's highest placed golfer in the Olympic standings.

The Florida-based golfer has made waves over the past two years, since becoming the youngest-ever winner of the US Amateur Championship in 2009 at 17. Making the step-up to the European Tour in 2014, he won the BMW Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Championship last year.

Currently Asia's second-best golfer behind Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (17th), An is confident of progressing into the PGA Tour next, after becoming the first Korean winner of the European Tour's 2015 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.

He said of his chances of making the tour, after sharing third spot on the first day of the Singapore Open yesterday: "I've been playing well this week so far. As long as I play like this I have a pretty good chance of making the PGA Tour."

Though An competes in a sport dominated by the Western world, he is upbeat about Asia's chances in what will be golf's first appearance at the Olympics since 1904.

He said: "Winning a medal will show that Asians are on par with Europeans and Americans. We have something like six or seven players on the field, I say we have a good chance to win definitely."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Olympic medal goal to be like mum and dad'. Print Edition | Subscribe