It has been quite a 12 months for Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year Byeong Hun An since he left European Challenge Tour ranks and embarked upon a rookie season on The European Tour.
The 24 year old finished third in the 2014 Challenge Tour Rankings – aided by a maiden victory at the ROLEX Trophy – to earn graduation to The 2015 Race to Dubai, and he took to life in the big time like a natural.
Three top ten finishes in his first nine events preceded An’s historic victory in the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in May, where an imperious seven under par final round of 65 gave him a staggering six shot win.
If I hadn't played on the Challenge Tour I don't think I could have won at Wentworth - it prepares you for the big events and definitely improved my game
The South Korean – known on Tour as Ben An – then saved some of his best form for the Final Series, finishing in the top four at three of the final four events to finish the year in seventh place in The Race to Dubai.
Additionally, his season earnings of €2,211,642 were the largest from a Challenge Tour graduate in history, eclipsing Edoardo Molinari’s haul from 2010 – when the Italian earned a Ryder Cup spot.
In winning the Graduate of the Year award he joins the esteemed company of Brooks Koepka – now firmly established in the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking – and, like the American, An also claimed the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award in the same year.
The consistency over the course of a season, and the ability to compete with the best players over the course of four rounds, was honed in three years on the Challenge Tour, culminating in a breakthrough season in 2014 which featured eight top ten finishes including that win.
It serves as yet another demonstration of the Challenge Tour’s pedigree, with other recent success stories on The European Tour including Kristoffer Broberg, who took a maiden victory at last month’s BMW Masters.
An himself was effusive in his praise of the Challenge Tour upon hearing about winning the prestigious Graduate of the Year award.
“If I hadn’t played on the Challenge Tour I don’t think I could have won at Wentworth and had the success I had last season,” he said.
“It prepares you for the big events and there are so many great players and great courses on the Challenge Tour. It definitely improved my game over the three years and got me well prepared for my rookie season on the main Tour.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said: “At the Challenge Tour, we are proud to count Ben An as a former graduate and it is with immense pleasure that I congratulate him on winning these accolades.
“Ben spent three years honing his game and building his confidence on the European Challenge Tour, and it was always clear to anyone who observed him play that he was destined for great things in the game.“Winning one of our own most prestigious events in 2014, the ROLEX Trophy, set Ben on the road to the top and his meteoric success is further proof that the Challenge Tour system continues to grow and develop as the best place for young up and coming players to prepare for the highest echelons of world golf.”