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Byeong-Hun An is 1st Asian to win Rookie of the Year on European Tour

VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Byeong-Hun An of South Korea became the first Asian to win the rookie of the year award on the European Tour on Friday, a feat he hopes will inspire other golfers from his continent to play in Europe.

The 24-year-old An won his first tour title at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May -- finishing the flagship event with a record low score -- and had top-four finishes in three of the four Final Series events, earning him a seventh-place finish in the Race to Dubai.

In 2009, An became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship at 17, and now he's making a name for himself across the Atlantic.

"It's great to be part of that history," said An, the second-highest-ranked Asian player at No. 31. "I'm the first Asian to win it, and hopefully it will help bring more Asian players to play on the European Tour."

Previous winners of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award include Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia, and Martin Kaymer.

Keith Pelley, chief executive of the tour, said he had "no doubt that Ben will follow in their footsteps and forge a great career in the game."

English player Matt Fiztpatrick, another former U.S. Amateur champion, was also in the running for the award.

"Obviously gutted I didn't win Rookie Of The Year," Fitzpatrick wrote on Twitter, "thought I'd done enough in the events I played but hats off to Ben."