The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship (WAAP) has assembled the best players in the region, including three from the top 10 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), to contest the 2023 championship being held at Singapore Island Country Club.
A field of 85 players from 22 countries, including debutants Lebanon and Qatar, are in the field for the championship that starts on Thursday. Australia will be represented by Justice Bosio, Keeley Marx, Caitlin Peirce, Sarah Hammett, Jazy Roberts and Abbie Teasdale.
The stellar field features three of the top 10, seven of the top 20 and 18 of the top 100 players in the WAGR.
Rin Yoshida, the highest-ranked player at world No.4, is competing at the WAAP for the first time and is competing outside of Japan for just the second time in her career. She finished 20th at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship in 2022.
It’s a similar story for Yahui Zhang of China, who won nine WAGR events in her home country to climb to No.34, but competed outside China for the first time last month at the Queen Sirikit Cup in the Philippines where she recorded a tied-17th result.
Japan has already produced two champions in the first four editions of the WAAP – Yuka Yasuda (2019) and Mizuki Hashimoto (2021) – and Yoshida leads a talented Japanese contingent of five other players this year. All six Japanese players are in the top 100 of the WAGR, including the 2021 champion Hashimoto, who is world No.19.
Yoshida’s elder sister, Yuri, played in the first two WAAPs, finishing tied-10th in Singapore and tied-12th in Japan. Rin is hoping advice from her sister and the hard work she put in with her coach will help her perform well this week.
“It’s my second time playing abroad. I am not nervous at all, but very excited at the opportunity. I have prepared hard for this championship,” said the 19-year-old.
“I have been talking to my sister a lot about this championship and getting some advice on the conditions in Singapore. Since it is winter in Japan, I did more putting practice with my coach, which would help. This is a very difficult course. The greens are not that fast, but the slopes are quite steep.”
Zhang is the highest-ranked played from China, which has sent a full contingent of six players for the first time since pandemic-related restrictions were lifted in the country.
The 17-year-old, who is now working with new national coach and former Major champion Shanshan Feng, has nine WAGR wins in the past two years, but is still trying to make her mark in international championships.
“I learned so much during the Queen Sirikit Cup in the Philippines last month. I was a bit nervous there, since it was my first time playing outside of China. I want to put all those learnings into my game this week,” said Zhang, who has added 20 metres to her drives since she started training with her idol Feng.
Two other players who are in excellent form coming into the championship are Rianne Mikhaela Malixi of the Philippines and New Zealander Fiona Xu.
Xu, who finished tied-13th at the WAAP last year thanks to a bogey-free, five-under 67 in the final round, has been in excellent form coming into the championship this year. The 18-year-old has recorded top-ten results in her past five tournaments including two professional events – the ISPS Handa Australian Open, where she tied for 10th, and the Vic Open, where she finished equal sixth.
“I try not to think too much when playing golf. That has helped me play better. My goal for every tournament is to be consistent,” said Xu, who considers the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking No.1 Lydia Ko as her role model.
“She has always been my idol and I have always wanted to work as hard as she has. And yes, my goal is to be on the LPGA like her one day.”
Since finishing in joint third place at last year’s WAAP, 15-year-old Malixi was tied sixth at the Annika Invitational and tied third in last month’s Queen Sirikit Cup.
“I think I have improved drastically the past three years. I certainly gained a lot of experience just playing tournaments,” said Malixi, who shot into the limelight at the 2021 WAAP in Abu Dhabi, where she finished tied for 23rd as a 13-year-old.
“I just handle the pressure better. I think I am doing a better job of that. Knowing that I can bring that aspect of my game this week, definitely helps.”
In the first four editions, players from Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul), Japan (Yuka Yasuda and Mizuki Hashimoto) and Chinese Taipei (Ting-Hsuan Huang) have held aloft the sought-after trophy.
The WAAP Championship was developed by the R&A and the APGC to inspire future generations of women golfers. The R&A is supported by championship event partners that share its commitment to developing golf in the Asia-Pacific.