SAI KUNG, Hong Kong — Cheng Jin was crowned champion of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) after Sunday’s fourth round was cancelled. A lengthy suspension in play, due to high winds and rainfall from a nearby typhoon, eliminated the possibility of play being completed before darkness.
The first group teed off as scheduled at 6:40 a.m. with nine groups making it on course for the start of round four. Play was subsequently suspended at 7:41 a.m. With conditions not improving by midday, Jin, the 54-hole leader at 11-under-par, became the winner over joint runners-up, Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis of Australia.
The Chinese No. 1-ranked amateur golfer managed to retain his place at the top of the leader board at the end of round three thanks to a superbly judged chip at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club’s par-5 closing hole, from which he went on to secure a decisive birdie. The win means the Beijing native becomes the second player from China to lift the AAC trophy following the triumph of Guan Tianlang in 2012.
“This win just came so fast and so sudden,” said Jin, who fired a course-record 8-under 62 on the first day followed by rounds of 68 and 69 on days two and three to earn a much-coveted spot at the Masters Tournament next year, where he will get his first chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with the biggest names in the game.
“I was ready for the round today, and unfortunately the weather didn’t work out, [but] it’s my pleasure to win this week. Going there [Augusta National Golf Club] next year is just amazing for me. I’m so excited and looking forward to it.”
The 17-year-old’s victory also earned him a place in The Open Qualifying Series, which offers the opportunity to progress to Royal Troon next summer for the 145th edition of the game’s oldest major championship. By virtue of their second-place finishes, Ruffels and Davis, long-time friends and Australian teammates, will also receive spots in the series.
Although Ruffels, the World No. 8 and highest-ranked player in the field, was clearly disappointed not to have had the opportunity to play on Sunday, the 17-year-old was full of praise for Jin’s performance in a post-round press conference he shared with Davis.
“It’s not hard to tell that we’re both pretty gutted,” said Ruffels, who narrowly missed a 12-foot eagle chance on the final green in the third round that would have lifted him up alongside Jin at 11-under. “Obviously there’s nothing we can do about the situation. The tournament did great in just trying to get us out there today. [But] credit to Jin; he played amazing this week. To back up 8-under with those two rounds in some tough conditions … He’s a great golfer and even better guy, and I’m sure he’s going to enjoy the experiences he gets from winning this tournament”
“While weather regrettably shortened the event, we have identified a very worthy and talented champion in Cheng Jin,” said Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “This is a moment of celebration. He showed his tremendous skill during the championship and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta next April. We know Cheng will proudly represent the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and everyone who loves the game from this region of the world.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Cheng Jin has played tremendously well this week and is a deserving champion. We are very much looking forward to welcoming Cheng and the runners-up, Cameron Davis and Ryan Ruffels, to The Open Qualifying Series for The 145th Open at Royal Troon in July. I know the players will be disappointed not to have been able to play the final round today but they should take great credit for their performances this week.”
Since its inauguration in 2009, the AAC has produced an impressive list of winners, including Guan Tianlang of China who went on to make history as the youngest competitor in Masters Tournament history and two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who has recorded top-20 finishes across all four majors since turning professional in 2013.