12-year-old Oh sets women's Australian Open record

A 12-year-old Oh Su-hyun made history as the youngest ever player to tee off at the women's Australian Open.

updated: February 12, 2009 10:08 IST
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Melbourne, Australia:

While her classmates were coming to grips with their first week at high school, 12-year-old Oh Su-hyun was making history as the youngest ever player to tee off at the women's Australian Open.

Oh earned the right to take on the likes of Karrie Webb at the Metropolitan Golf Club after topping the official open qualifying tournament at nearby Kingswood Golf Club on Monday. She started her Open campaign with a first-round 6-over-par 79 on Thursday. She was 13 shots behind former No1-ranked Webb's leading 66, but still harboured hopes of making the cut.

"I was really nervous when I started and really nervous when I finished," said Oh, who turns 13 in May. "I enjoyed it, but I did not play good golf. I was going 1-over after nine holes then I had three bogeys in a row."

Still, not bad for a girl who hadn't touched a golf club before moving to Melbourne with her family from Busan, South Korea in 2004.

Her father Oh Seok-gu, who plays off a 12 handicap, introduced her to the game at a local golf course. These days he finds it too frustrating to play his daughter, who plays off a 2 handicap.

Although still a South Korean national, Oh has expressed a desire to take Australian citizenship when she's eligible and represent her adopted country in matchplay tournaments.

Remarkably, Oh is only the youngest player at the Open by a few weeks. Another Korean-Australian Chi Young-min is 12, but turns 13 in April.

By comparison, Michelle Wie -- another precocious talent of Korean background -- was 10 years old when she qualified for the US Amateur Public Links Championship in 2000, and became the youngest player to qualify for a US LPGA event at age 12 in 2002.

Oh is already the Victoria state junior champion, winning the provincial title at the Metropolitan in November, making her more familiar than some of her competitors with the Open course. But she wasn't prepared for the impact that Melbourne's recent heat wave had on the greens.

"The greens are like concrete ... bounce, bounce, bounce... I could not putt today. I hit them too hard today, they hit the hole and bounced out," she said.

Oh says she's made no plans yet for a professional career, and is still trying to combine her studies with the demands of golf practice.

She put school on hold briefly this week, though she had trouble explaining to the staff at McKinnon Secondary College why she would be playing golf rather than attending school this week.

"My sister tried to tell the (class) co-ordinator," Oh said.

"She said 'what age group is that in?' She could not think that I was playing in the Australian Open." At this early age, she's aiming for a 50/50 split between practice and homework.

She makes sure she finishes her homework before hitting the practice green most days, although that timetable has slipped a little this week.

"The pre-qualifying day was our first (school) work day and I did not go," she said. "My friend told me to ring her for homework. I have not rung her yet. I think all my homework books are in my locker at school."