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13 Year old qualifies for NZ Open

Jae, An, a 13-year old Rotorua schoolboy, almost certainly became the youngest male golfer to qualify for a national Open Championship when he shot a course record 65 yesterday to secure a place in the $1 million New Zealand Open.

The Korean-born youngster topped the second stage of pre-qualifying with a sizzling six-under par round at the Waikanae course where 79 players were chasing 18 spots in the Open field of 144.

An also produced a sensational performance in last week's first round of qualifying, contested by 194 players, when he shot 69 at The Grange in Auckland. He was one of only two players to break par on that occasion.

A reserve for the Rotorua Boys College team which won last year's world schools championship in England, the solidly-built An had little to say before leaving the course yesterday.

But he told friends that gaining a place in the field alongside World No.1 Tiger Woods and players of the ilk of Michael Campbell, Craig Parry and Sir Bob Charles was the highlight of his career.

Aaron Baddeley was the previous youngest player to qualify for an Australasian PGA Tour event. Baddeley was 15 when he qualified for the Victorian Open and Bradley Hughes also played the same event as a 15-year-old, although marginally older than Baddeley.

American schoolboy Ty Tryon made the cut at last year's Honda Classic when 16 and precocious Florida 13-year-old Morgan Pressel made world headlines when she played last year's US Women's Open won by Karrie Webb.

Pressel was actually 12 years of age when she played the qualifying events for the US Open.

Another American girl, Beverley Klass, is believed to be the youngest golfer to have contested a major national Open. Klass was a 10-year old when she appeared in the 1967 US Womens Open.

Reports at the time indicated Klass played against her wishes, but a dominant father pushed his daughter into the spotlight.

The NZ Open starts on Thursday at Paraparaumu Beach with the stellar drawcard Tiger Woods scheduled to arrive in Wellington early this morning amid tight security.


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