Byeong Hun An takes Rookie of the Year award just ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick

Korea's Byeong Hun An has won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
Korea's Byeong Hun An has won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
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SHEFFIELD'S Matt Fitzpatrick has been edged out by Korea's Byeong Hun An to be named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.

An has become the first Korean winner of the award, his breakthrough 2015 season also yielding another prestigious title as the Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year.

Fitzpatrick, like An a former US Amateur champion, was the closest challenger in the race to be crowned Rookie of the Year.

The 21-year-old claimed a maiden title on English soil in October, winning the British Masters.

That victory, along with seven further top-five finishes including one at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, earned the Yorkshireman 12th place in the final Race to Dubai rankings.

He also had 10 top-10 placings, a record for a rookie on the European Tour.

But 24-year-old An had made a significant impact early in his maiden campaign, sealing a first European Tour title at one of its most prestigious events, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.

The America-based Korean – more commonly known on Tour as Ben An – became only the second rookie in history to win the BMW PGA Championship.

An, who in 2009 became the youngest winner of the US Amateur Championship at the age of 17, went on to produce an impressive finish to the 2015 campaign, claiming top-four finishes in three of the four Final Series events.

That form earned him a seventh place finish in the 2015 Race to Dubai, five spots ahead of Fitzpatrick.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime achievement,” said An. “I worked very hard for this and played great last season. There were a lot of other good rookie players, so to win the award is very special.

“The race went down to the final day of the final event – even the last hole. It was so close and I had no idea who was going to get it.

“I’ve seen the other names who have won this award over the years and I’ve joined a list of great players. It’s great to be part of that history. I’m the first Asian to win it and hopefully it will help bring more Asian players to play on the European Tour.

“A lot of guys ask me if the European Tour is good to play on and I always say one hundred per cent yes. Hopefully I will lead the way for many more.”

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “I would like to congratulate Ben on a remarkable season, which is given a fitting ending with the confirmation of him as the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.

“The award itself has an illustrious history and includes among its winners major champions Tony Jacklin, Sir Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, José María Olazábal, and Martin Kaymer alongside eight-time European Tour No 1Colin Montgomerie. I have no doubt that Ben will follow in their footsteps and forge a great career in the game.”