Instead, Sung Yoon Kim and James Oh were

Associated Press Published:

Instead, Sung Yoon Kim and James Oh were playing for a spot in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship, and a chance to become the youngest winner in the history of this nation's oldest golf championship.

Kim won Friday's battle of 17-year-olds, closing out the match on the final hole, to join Hunter Haas, 22, Ben Curtis, 20, and David Gossett, 20, in the semifinals.

On Saturday, Kim will play Haas, a senior at Oklahoma, while Gossett, a sophomore at Texas, will face Curtis, a senior at Kent.

Though the week-long championship has been dominated by youngsters _ no player older than 22 made the quarterfinals _ a match between high schoolers in the later rounds of such a major event is a rarity.

The youngest player to win the U.S. Amateur was Tiger Woods, who captured the first of his three consecutive titles in 1994 at 18.

"I felt more comfortable playing another 17-year-old," Kim, a high school junior in South Korea, said through a translator. "I'm in the final four now, so I'm pretty excited."

Though both players speak Korean _ Oh is a second-generation Korean-American from Lakewood, Calif. _ they rarely spoke on the course. Even when they walked side-by-side along the fairways on the Pebble Beach course, they were silent.

"I thought he didn't play too smart a couple of shots, but he pulled it off," Oh said. "I'm not surprised he got this far, because he's a very good ball striker."

Oh, who is a month older than Kim, nearly pulled off an amazing comeback. He trailed by three holes with four to play, then won the 15th to pull within two. Each player bogeyed the 16th, leaving Kim two holes ahead with two left.

Oh hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th into a sand trap and Kim's landed on the fringe of the green. But Oh's chip out of the sand hit the stick and fell into the hole, winning the hole and pulling him within one. As Oh high-fived his caddie, Kim smiled and looked at the sky.

As they walked to the 18th, the teen-agers had one of their longest conversations of the day.

"Nice shot," Kim said to Oh in Korean.

Oh nearly made another remarkable save on the par-5 18th. His tee shot landed in weeds growing on rocks along the Pacific Ocean. The ball was about 10 feet below the fairway, stuck in grass about 8 inches high.

With waves lapping at the shore, Oh somehow chipped out and got the ball on the fairway.

"I got it up and over a brick wall that's taller than me," said the 5-foot-7 Oh. "It was deep grass. It was almost little trees more than grass. I don't know how it got through."

But Oh hit his next shot into the rough in front of the green, and when his chip shot from there landed far from the cup he conceded the hole _ and the match _ to Kim.

Haas, the reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, was a 2 and 1 winner over Charlie Woerner, a senior at Southern California.

Gossett was a 4 and 3 winner over James Driscoll, a senior at Virginia. Gossett never missed a fairway and did not have a bogey until the 13th hole, by which point he had a comfortable lead.

"It's kind of intimidating to see your opponent stripe it down the middle of the fairway on every hole," Driscoll said.

Curtis, who began playing on a golf course his grandfather owns in

Delaware, Ohio, was a 7 and 6 winner over Andrew Sanders, a junior at

Houston.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.