On the range at Sheshan International GC (AAC photo)
Often it takes just one opportunity to open a world of doors, potentially changing a player’s path indefinitely. The Asia-Pacific Amateur, now in its 11th year, is that opportunity.
For Takumi Kanaya, the 21-year-old defending champion from Japan, a win in Singapore sparked a whirlwind six months in which he played six straight pro events (making the cut at the Masters Tournament in April) then finished off the summer with starts in the British Open and the U.S. Amateur. Since his win last fall, Kanaya has risen to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Kanaya’s climb is reminiscent of what happened to a 19-year-old Hideki Matsuyama back in 2010. Matsuyama, now 27 and with five PGA Tour victories to his credit, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur for the first time in 2010 in his native Japan before defending his title in Singapore the following year.
Matsuyama earned back-to-back Masters invitations for his efforts. As a professional, Matsuyama has finished in the top 20 at Augusta for the past four years.
It seems safe to say that the tournament, jointly developed in 2009 by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters and the R&A -- has taken hold in the Asia-Pacific region of the world and performed its intended job of identifying the next great talents from the region as well as bringing new players into the game. The Masters, afterall, is one heck of a carrot.
Here’s what you need to know as Asia-Pacific Amateur week gets underway in Shanghai, China:
The Asia-Pacific Amateur returns to China for the third time in its 11-year history. Sheshan International Golf Club is a relatively young course, founded in 2004 and built at the base of Sheshan Mountain.
The course annually hosts the WGC-HSBC Championship, a professional event featuring worldwide talent. Matsuyama won that event here in 2016.
Getting involved at this up-and-coming level of the game is important to Roger Foo, the general manager of Sheshan International Golf Club.
“Our club prides itself on supporting the game of golf by hosting major events as well as creating new golfers at the grassroots level through our junior program,” he said. “Hosting the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is an extension of our vision to see the game of golf thrive in China, and we are excited to welcome the region’s best amateurs to Shanghai in 2019.”
Aussie success has been well-documented in 2019, particularly at the amateur level. Lukas Michel became the first international winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur last week, scoring himself a ticket to Augusta National in April. Any of the six Australians playing at Sheshan International this week have a good chance of joining him.
At No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, David Micheluzzi carries the highest ranking. He is joined by Blake Windred, Karl Vilips (a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Amateur), Jack Thompson, Kyle Michel (no relation to Lukas) and Nathan Barbieri.
The latter three are making their debut as part of Team Australia. Vilips, an 18-year-old Stanford commit who is based in the U.S., is coming in with perhaps the most momentum, given his U.S. Amateur performance. Still, Australians typically play a packed summer schedule in the U.S., only months after doing the same thing during their Australian summer (our winter).
Vilips won gold at last year’s Youth Olympics while representing Australia and hopes there’s more where that came from.
“I don't think I've ever been on a team with these guys and just the whole team environment representing the country is special to me and all these guys," he told Golf Australia. “Just the whole aspect of travelling together, going to dinner together, working out together this morning, it's an experience that not everyone gets to get, so when you do get it, you cherish it.”
Even if they weren’t in Trinity, Texas, this week contributing scores for Arizona State at the Trinity Forest Invitational, three Sun Devils were contributing to the headlines even from China. Chun-An Yu, Won Jun Lee and James Leow had already left for Shanghai by the time their college team won the second consecutive start of their season on Tuesday. The three had all been part of Arizona State’s first team win earlier this month, further proving what depth there is on the Sun Devil squad.
Yu, who won the Australian Master of the Amateurs to start the year, is the top player in the Golfweek
/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings, and representing Taiwan this week. Leow is playing for Singapore while Lee is playing for Korea.
Past Arizona State, several other teams are also represented.
Wake Forest’s Kengo Aoshima will play for Korea, and so will UCLA’s Hidetoshi Yoshihara.
Oklahoma State freshman Rayhan Thomas has made both starts with the Cowboys this fall and will tee it up for India at Sheshan.
SMU sophomore Ben Wong, half of the winning U.S. Amateur Four-Ball team in 2017, is playing for Hong Kong.
Thailand’s six-man squad includes Ole Miss senior Tanapat (Peng) Pichaikool and San Diego State junior Puwit Anupansuebsai.
Want to watch the action? Details are below. For East Coasters, Shanghai time is 12 hours ahead.
ABOUT THE Asia-Pacific Amateur
The Asia-Pacific Amateur (formerly known as the
Asian Amateur) is the first of a series of
championships put together by a between the
Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters
Tournament and The R&A. The event offers the
winner an invitation to the Masters Tournament at
Augusta National Golf Club and the British Open
The event has historically moved throughout the
region and has now been held in China,
Japan, Singapore, Thailand,
Australia and Hong Kong, Korea, and New
A field, topping out at 120 players, is selected by
The top two ranked amateur players from
of the APGC member countries plus the four
top ranked players from the host country. If
there is not a sufficient number of players
ranked from that member country, the
country may nominate a player(s) from
country, to be approved by the APGC, to
the two positions eligible from that country.
The remainder of the field will be filled
the next highest ranked players of APGC
member countries, not otherwise qualified.
maximum number of eligible players from
APGC member country (with the exception
the host country) is six. Additional players may
be offered at the event's discretion.
View Complete Tournament Information