WELLINGTON - Lin Yuxin showed his mettle in a finish worthy of a champion to win the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) on Sunday, decisively outplaying Chinese compatriot Andy Zhang over the 17th and 18th holes for a final round of 65 and a winning margin of three strokes on 14-under 270.
The 17-year-old had held a one-stroke lead overnight but opened with three straight pars to trail Zhang by one by the third following the latter's two birdies on the first and third.
That remained the status quo until a bogey from Zhang on the par-four 15th - the latter's first slip-up in 30 holes going back to the third round - levelled things up.
From there it was all Lin at the Royal Wellington Golf Club. The left-hander birdied the par-four 17th for a one-stroke lead before closing with an eagle on the par-five 497-metre 18th, his victory sealed after his second shot with a five-iron landed within two feet of the pin.
"Andy was on fire from the beginning and hadn't made a single mistake till the 15th. He's not an aggressive player but he's very steady and consistent," said Lin. "So I knew I had to just stay aggressive, hit as many drivers as I could throughout the round to get my own birdie chances."
Victory yesterday secured the University of Southern California-bound teenager berths in two of golf's Majors next year: the Masters at Augusta and the Open at Carnoustie.
He is the third Chinese player to win the AAC after Guan Tianlang in 2012 and Jin Cheng in 2015.
Zhang paid tribute to Lin's performance, but felt he played a better round than his 67 indicated.
"For Yuxin to go three, three, three (on his final holes), I mean, you can't really argue with that," said the 19-year-old. "I don't think he had me today, though. I only made one birdie on the back nine. The way I was striking my irons and wedges, I felt like I could have made a lot more."
It was a dominant showing for the Chinese golfers in the ninth edition of the AAC as they claimed four of the top five positions in the 116-man field.
Yuan Yechun (68) tied for third with Australia's Lee Min Woo (71) on 277, with Jin Cheng (65) a stroke back in fifth.
Singapore also had something to cheer about in the AAC's final round as Abdul Hadi shot a 66 for the second-lowest score of the day and the best round of any Singaporean for the tournament.
The 22-year-old began the day five over but got back to even-par 284 with that performance, good for a tied-17th finish.
Team-mate Gregory Foo shot a 74 to end tied-41st on seven-over 291.
"A lot of things went right today. I started normally but once I began hitting a lot of shots on the line - drives, second shots, putts - my confidence just grew from there," said a beaming Hadi, whose round featured seven birdies and two bogeys.
"My caddie and I did better at reading the greens today so that made a difference as well."