If there were any doubts China will be a formidable presence in world golf this century, those doubts should be somewhat dispelled by a comprehensive performance at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Wellington.
Chinese amateurs filled four of the top-five placegetters on the leaderboard topped by schoolboy Lin Yuxin. The 17-year-old from Beijing shot a brilliant final round of six-under 65 to win by three strokes over Andy Zhang.
Seven behind Lin in a tie for third were Yechun Yuan and Australia’s Min Woo Lee. Jin Cheng, the 2015 Asia-Pacific winner from China, was outright fifth another shot back.
China created history as the first nation to record three victories in nine stagings of the Asia-Pacific Amateur. But it was the manner of the Chinese performance that stood out.
On a Royal Wellington layout that was expected to favour the locals from New Zealand and Australia, the Chinese excelled the longer the tournament progressed. The closest the Kiwis got to victory was via Bill Huang, a 12-handicapper from Shandon Golf Club who was on Lin’s bag for the week.
The consolation for the New Zealanders is that they had four players in the top 10. Daniel Hillier tied for sixth at five-under par. Kerry Mountcastle was ninth at four under. Ryan Chisnall and Nick Voke tied for 10th at three under.
The Australians were expected to flourish but just three players finished inside the top 10. Apart from Lee, Shae Wools-Cobb tied for sixth and Harrison Endycott tied for 10th after closing with a 66.
Lin now has his sights set on Augusta National where, as the winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, he will tee up in the year’s first Major in April. In July it’s off to the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
“I’m very, very, very happy about I can get a chance to play these two Majors. I’m actually very proud of myself to be able to do it. For next year, I think I will just try to enjoy as much as possible,” Lin said.
The prodigiously long-hitting Lin registered 22 birdies and two eagles at Royal Wellington. He threw in seven bogeys, a double and a triple but it didn’t cost him.
Under the pump and challenged by Zhang, Lin played the final three holes 3-3-3 to reach 14-under par. He ripped a 5-iron into the par-5 18th from 216 yards to set up an eagle 3 to clinch the title.
Underlining his performance, Lin is just the fourth player to card four rounds in the 60s in Asia-Pacific Amateur history. Hideki Matsuyama (winner in 2010) and Cameron Smith (fourth in 2011) have established themselves on the US PGA Tour with Matsuyama ranked fourth and Smith 87th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Lin represents a new breed of self-assured Chinese players. He is fluent in English, having attended an American school in Beijing from fourth grade. His coach is former tour player Boyd Summerhays. Since linking up this year, Lin has spent two month-long sessions with the Scottsdale-based pro. The rest of the teaching is done by video.
Lin is born, raised and based in Beijing – unlike his five teammates in Wellington who have relocated to America. But judging on his progress this week, it won’t be too long before he’s spending more time in the States.
For full scores, visit aacgolf.com.