Jeunghun Wang has capped a remarkable maiden season on the European Tour by claiming the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year title, becoming the second South Korean to take the honour in successive years following compatriot Byeong Hun An in 2015.
Wang set a host of records in May with back-to-back European Tour wins at the Trophée Hassan II and AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and finished the season in 16th position in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
Wang pulled ahead of his closest challengers for the Rookie of the Year award - China’s Haotong Li (23rd), fellow Korean Soomin Lee (43rd) and Brandon Stone of South Africa (50th) - with a strong end to 2016 in the Final Series. He finished second behind Alex Noren at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, and tied 17th alongside Ross Fisher on six under par at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
In January, the 21 year old was a captain’s pick in Asia’s team for the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM. An impressive second place at the Hero Indian Open followed in March suggesting his potential before his momentous May.
He became the youngest winner on the European Tour since Matteo Manassero triumphed at the 2013 BMW PGA Championship, aged 20 years and 27 days. Wang holed three remarkable putts on the 18th green, first in regulation play and then in each of the two extra holes, to see off Nacho Elvira in a play-off on a dramatic final day at the Trophée Hassan II.
A week later, Wang became the first Korean player to record multiple victories in the same European Tour season when he came out on top in a final round battle with Siddikur Rahman to claim the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
That victory made him the the first player to triumph in back-to-back European Tour events since 2014, when Rory McIlroy won the WGC–Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship.
He also became the first Asian player to win consecutive European Tour events, and at 20 years and 263 days, the youngest ever player to win consecutive European Tour events.
He follows Manassero, Sergio Garcia, Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and José Maria Olazábal, by winning his first two official European Tour events before the age of 21.
He said: “I didn’t even think about winning Rookie of the Year until the Turkish Airlines Open when Haotong Li finished second, so it is nice to finally make it. I’m the second Korean to win this award and I’m so proud. I’ve not spoken to Ben yet about winning it, but maybe after this I will.
“I’m so happy. It was nice to finish the year well in Dubai. I had a bad start on the last day, but then shot seven birdies, so to finish six under is fantastic for me.
“I still can’t believe how this year has gone. I want to keep improving and learning in the big tournaments and from the great players. Playing on the European Tour has been a great experience for me. Next year? I want to win more than twice maybe!”
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour said: “With the wealth of talent we have competing every week on the European Tour, to win two tournaments in a row and finish in the top 20 on the Race to Dubai is a tremendous feat in his first year and for that, Jeunghun Wang is a worthy winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year for 2016.
“By following in the footsteps of his compatriot Byeong Hun An in winning this prestigious award, he has shown the tremendous depth of talent in South Korea and in Asia in general. We look forward to nurturing more of this talent on the European Tour in years to come through our Strategic Alliance with the Asian Tour.”