S. Korean young gun takes a shot at history


SEOUL — South Korean young gun Noh Seung-Yul will be aiming for a place in the record books by becoming the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he tees off at the Maekyung Open on Thursday. The former Korean amateur number one, a tender 16 years old, is among the contenders in the 600,000-dollar Asian Tour event.

Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil holds the the record for the youngest ever winner in Asia, taking the Double A International Open on home soil in 2005 at 17 years and five days. Noh, who turns 17 on May 29, has been one of the revelations of the season, chalking up two runners-up finishes and another top-10 in his rookie season on the Asian Tour. He returns to the Nam Seoul Country Club full of confidence as he played in all four rounds of the Maekyung Open as an amateur last year and finished tied third in the 2006 edition. “My strength is in my mental game. Since I was very young, I’ve been taught that it’s only ‘me, myself and my golf ball.’ I’ve adopted that approach this season and it’s showing with my good start to the year,” said Noh.

The Korean youngster challenged for the title at the inaugural SAIL Open in India before finishing second and repeated the performance at the Asian Tour International in Thailand. The Gangwondo-based Noh has continued to sparkle against strong competition and claimed a top-10 in the Volvo China Open, which is sanctioned by the Asian and European tours, two weeks ago. “I have been enjoying a good ride on the Asian Tour and my aim is to secure full playing rights for next year so I hope to continue my momentum,” said Noh, who is ranked 18th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.

Noh will face a determined charge from title holder and compatriot Kim Kyung-Tae. The 21-year-old Kim showed superb form ahead of his defence when he finished runner-up in an event in Japan last weekend.

Other leading Koreans in the field include Lee Sung and Bae Sang-Moon, both winners on the Asian Tour last season. The other Asian challengers include former Asian Tour number ones Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, both from Thailand, Filipinos Juvic Pagunsan and Artemio Murakami, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Malaysia’s Iain Steel. The Maekyung Open is the 11th event on the Asian Tour schedule.