12-Year-Old Makes Splash in Australia

Oh Su-hyun made history this week by becoming the youngest golfer ever to play in the Women's Australian Open. The 12-year-old from South Korea, who now lives in Australia, earned her spot in the event by winning the qualifying tournament Monday at Kingswood Golf Club in Melbourne.

In her opening round Thursday, the pre-teen shot a 6-over 79 at the Metropolitan Golf Club, also in Melbourne. She was 13 shots behind Karrie Webb, but still hopes to make 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."

Oh is the youngest player at the Open by only a few weeks. Another Korean-Australian, Chi Young-min, is 12 - but turns 13 in April. Michelle Wie, now on the LPGA Tour, was 10 years old when she qualified for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2000. Wie later became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event at age 12 in 2002.

Oh is the Victoria state junior champion, winning the provincial title at the Metropolitan in November, giving her some familiarity with the Open venue. But she wasn't prepared for the course's hard greens, made more difficult because of Melbourne's recent heat wave.

"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," Oh said.

Webb, a four-time winner of her native country's Open championship, expressed incredulity about Oh's age and skills. Webb said she didn't even have a handicap at the age of 12. "Twelve years old? I'd been playing professional golf for two years before they were born. That's pretty amazing. You're starting to hear that more and more. Girls mature physically a lot sooner. It's more likely that a 12-year-old (girl) is playing with grown women than guys, who mature much later."

Oh has put her schoolwork on hold this week, though she had difficulty explaining to the staff at McKinnon Secondary College why she would be playing golf rather than attending school. "My sister tried to tell the (class) coordinator," Oh said. "She said 'What age group is that in?' She could not think that I was playing in the Australian Open."