Elite Amateur

Australian hopes dashed at Asia Pacific Amateur Championship

Kanaya with the spoils of his victory. (Photo: Asia Pacific Amateur Championship)
Australian hopes for a third Asia Pacific Amateur Championship were quashed today when Min Woo Lee and David Micheluzzi produced final rounds of 73 and 77 respectively at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore.

After beginning the day four shots from the lead, the pair needed something very special if they were to have any hope and when Micheluzzi birdied two of his first four holes it appeared he might be the one to challenge for the title.

He would be unable to build on his impressive start however and after succumbing to a horror finish in which he dropped eight shots in his final six holes, including a quintuple bogey at the par 3 17th,  he would eventually finish in a share of 30th.

Lee, too, would begin well with two birdies in his opening six holes but consecutive double bogeys at his 8th and 9th holes put paid to any hopes he might of mounting a serious challenge and he would eventually finish in a share of 16th place and a massive ten shots from the 2018 champion Takumi Kanaya.

Lee was the leading player in the field in the world amateur rankings in the field but after positioning himself for a final round challenge he was once again unable to capitalise.

Of the other Australians in the field Zach Murray was 21st and Dylan Perry and Blake Windred 24th.

New Zealander Daniel Hillier proved to be the best of the overall Australasian challenge when he tied for 13th.

20-year old Kanaya, a runner-up at last year’s Japan Open Championship and runner-up in the individual standings at this year’s World Amateur Teams Championship, is on the verge of what would seem a superb career in the professional game when he makes the decision to turn to the paid ranks.

He also recorded top twenty finishes at both the NSW and Australian Opens late last year and is currently the second highest ranked amateur (502nd) in the world golf rankings.

Kanaya, who was the highest-ranked Japanese player in the field at No. 22 in the world amateur rankings, shot a five-under-par 65 on the final day to finish at 13-under-par 267, two shots ahead of India’s Rayhan Thomas (66) and compatriot and 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Keita Nakajima (67).

Kanaya earned an invitation to the 2019 Masters Tournament and a place in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush. Fellow countryman Hideki Matsuyama won his second AAC title in Singapore when the event was held at Singapore Island Country Club in 2011.

As runners-up, both Thomas and Nakajima will get the opportunity to play in The Open Qualifying Series.

Continuing his impressive form, Kanaya wasn’t fazed by the suspension in play due to inclement weather. Following the hour delay, he powered ahead of the field with three consecutive birdies starting at the 14th hole. After a bogey on the 17th, he went on to finish two strokes ahead of what had been a tight leader board throughout the day. 

“This is simply like a dream. I have been dreaming of going to the Masters ever since I was a kid,” said Kanaya, who received a congratulatory call from Matsuyama moments after winning the championship.

“I never expected to play the Masters and The Open so early in my career so this is just huge.

“I played well throughout the day but I think the key for me was how I kept my calm and composure during the round.”

Thomas was disappointed with the four-over 74 start he had in the first round, which eventually made all the difference. He achieved the best-ever finish by an Indian in the decade-long history of the championship, however, comfortably beating Khalin Joshi’s T-9 finish in 2010 in Japan.

“One thing I definitely learned from this week is that you can’t win a championship of this level after starting with a four-over round,” said Thomas, who made only one bogey in his last 45 holes.

“Irrespective of my score, I loved every moment of this great championship and I am glad that I have the chance to come back again next year knowing that I have the ability to win it.”

Nakajima felt he was in the reckoning until he made a bogey on the 17th hole, but added that Kanaya’s play was a factor, too.

“I had a fantastic week. I thought I still had a chance coming in, but the three-putt bogey on the 17th was a turning point. And also, Takumi played so solid,” said Nakajima.










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