Sure, Andy Zhang was willing to talk to a reporter. But first, he wanted to eat.
The youngest competitor in U.S. Open history walked across the parking lot at Bear Creek Golf Club on Monday and into the clubhouse dining area, where he loaded a styrofoam plate from the buffet line. Once seated, he gripped a grilled chicken sandwich in one hand while shoveling pasta salad with the other. He piled baked beans onto the chicken sandwich between bites and made separate trips for cobbler and lemonade.
Once full and satisfied, he lowered himself into a nearby couch and reached for a glossy magazine on the table.
"Oooh, Bubba Watson," he said.
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Zhang was ready to talk, free for a few minutes before addressing the lunch crowd and thanking the tournament's sponsors and organizers. Learning to manage requests for his time was among the first lessons he learned this month after being thrust into the spotlight.
He will tee it up this week in Hilton Head Plantation at an American Junior Golf Association event, his first competition since the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The 14-year-old landed in the U.S. Open field after Paul Casey withdrew with an injury. He played a Tuesday practice round with Masters champion Watson, and after walking off the 18th green was surrounded by media members who didn't stop asking questions.
"It's my first time doing all this stuff," Zhang said. "I should have said 'Stop,' when I wanted to stop. I didn't know what to do. I kept going and answering questions. I didn't want to keep up the group behind us."
Zhang told caddie and manager Chris Gold on the plane to San Francisco how he looked forward to hitting on the driving range next to the likes of Tiger Woods and seeking autographs from the world's top players. He didn't know what was ahead.
"I was like 'Dude, you're not going to ask them for their autograph, first of all," said Gold, a former University of Maryland golfer and mini-tour player hired by Zhang's father in January. "People are going to want your autograph. Then he got in (the tournament) and was just swarmed by the media. It was just crazy. He didn't practice as much as he could have."
The excitement began the Monday of U.S. Open week. Zhang had lost in a playoff at sectional qualifying at Black Diamond Club in Florida. He started as the fifth alternate for the 60 exempt players. And by that Monday, he was next on the list.
On the putting green at Olympic, Gold answered a call from USGA official Jeff Hall, who told him the good news.
"Andy was going nuts, feeling it," Gold said. "I was so pumped, because I knew he was going to make history right then and there, no matter how he played."
Playing with Mark Wilson and Michael Thompson, Zhang shot 78-79 to miss the cut. But he made the most of it.
The USGA took one of his gloves and a golf ball for posterity. Tiger Woods shook his hand. The Korean Open extended him an exemption. Media outlets around the world picked up his story.
On Monday, he was back to the junior golf grind, playing in a Junior-Am at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy Junior Open. This is just his third AJGA event.
He's just now coming into his game, Gold said. Zhang moved to Orlando, Fla., from China at age 10 after visiting the United States to play junior tournaments. He works with instructor Andrew Park at The Leadbetter Academy and attends high school online -- three hours of class each week and more than an hour of homework each day.
The rest of the day, he spends with Gold, who arrives at Zhang's home at 7 a.m. to stretch in the family's home gym and is with him up to nine hours or more each day.
"I thought it was going to be a two, three-day-a-week thing," Gold said. "And it turned into three to four days, four to five and now six days a week, I'm with Andy. It's helping me out a lot. I like working with Andy. He's a great player."
The pair has grown close over the past six months, joking and arguing like siblings, whether it's golf or Zhang's main interest, the NBA. One such disagreement occured Monday about the speed of the Bear Creek greens. Gold guessed the greens were rolling about 11 on the Stimpmeter. Zhang was adamant they were 10, having been watered recently.
Gold said Zhang has a 25-year-old's body with a 14-year-old's mind, that he sometimes has to help Zhang remain calm after a birdie or bogey. But the talent is there.
Zhang is still a ways from adulthood but has experienced the biggest stage. He shares the same goals as others at this week's AJGA event.
"My goal is always to be the top player in the world and make the PGA Tour and stuff," he said.
As long as there is time for food.
Hank Haney IJGA Junior Open
What: American Junior Golf Association event, open to boys and girls
When: Today-Thursday, tee times from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. on No. 1 and No. 10
Where: Hilton Head Plantation's Bear Creek Golf Club, par 72
Details: Hilton Head Island's Will Miles and Brooks Moody will compete. Bella Skinner, a Cummings, Ga., native who won the 2011 Junior All-Star at Hilton Head, is among those competing for the girls title.