Eric Chun does not need to say a word for it to be clear that he is at ease on a golf course. He possesses the relaxed, quietly confident manner shared by many modern day stars of the U.S. college golf scene. But it would be wrong to think it has been acquired principally from his time at Chicago’s Northwestern University. His runner-up spot at the 2009 Asian Amateur Championship led him on the journey that culminated with an appearance at the 2010 Open Championship.
His performance at Mission Hills two years ago meant he was one of only two amateurs at the Asian leg of International Final Qualifying, and Chun admitted he was a little intimated to be playing against regulars from the Asian Tour. However, a good start and an eight-foot clutch putt on the last secured his place.
“After I made that putt it started to sink in, but when I went to St Andrews it was like an out-of-body experience,” the 21-year-old Communications major said.
“I don’t know how to explain. You see guys you know from TV and you’re playing with them as well and you find out they are human – they make mistakes. You get a glimpse into the professional world and it was a chance to see the areas of the game that I need to improve to move onto to be at their level.”
At the Home of Golf he played practice rounds with KJ Choi, former Northwestern man Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Scott Verplank, Peter Senior and even got to play a hole with Tiger Woods. In the Championship proper he was joined by major winners Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson.
Standing next to the first tee at the Singapore Island Country Club’s New Course, his face lights up as he recalls the experience: “It just opened up my eyes to see where they are and where I am because you watch golf on TV on Saturday and Sunday and it’s just the last few groups who are all playing their best. When you put yourself up to that standard it seems impossible, but when you play with them you see major winners missing cuts and people who have been playing terrible winning tournaments. It gave me a chance to see the level of consistency I need. It has left me with more realistic goals. It definitely made me realise that it is achievable.”
Admittedly, he had a bad week at last year’s AAC, but he followed it with a solid season on the college circuit and he arrives in Singapore with a second place already in just two starts in 2011-12. His plan is to turn pro after graduation but first his sights are set on winning on his third appearance at the AAC.
He added: “Everything about the tournament is set up so well. They treat us here as if we’re at The Open. It’s always great food, great people, you get to meet a lot of people who can help you in your career. The courses are always so nice. Even though I played badly last year I still had a great time. It’s just a good experience always.”
The potential and importance of the tournament is best summed up by Chun, who also offered some words of advice.
“Even if you come second, as I tell my friends – it changes your life,” he explained.
“I’m not a superstar or anything like that but it gives you a little glimpse of what it would be like to be at that level everyday. So, winning this week would definitely be a confidence booster. There’s no real pressure it’s just a great opportunity just to be here, play and have fun.”