SINGAPORE - Scant minutes after becoming the first Japanese player to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship since 2011 on Sunday (Oct 7), Takumi Kanaya received a phone call from the man whose footsteps he followed in - world No. 21 Hideki Matsuyama.
"He just congratulated me and said he is looking forward to playing together (at the Masters and British Open)," said the 20-year-old, who earned entry to two of golf's four Majors next year - the Masters at Augusta and The Open Championship at Royal Portrush - as reward for his efforts.
"It was a surprise. Hideki won the AAC twice and I would like to play as well at the Masters as he did back then as an amateur."
Matsuyama's win in 2011 also came in Singapore, when the five-time PGA Tour winner prevailed by one stroke at the Singapore Island Country Club.
Kanaya too held firm under pressure to claim a two-stroke victory by shooting a final-round 65 to finish on 13-under 267 (69-69-64-65) at the Sentosa Golf Club, holding off compatriot and Asian Games champion Keita Nakajima (67-68-67-67) and Rayhan Thomas (74-64-65-66), who secured India's best-ever AAC finish.
It was a marked contrast to Kanaya's first AAC appearance two years ago when, lying in fifth position after three rounds, he proceeded to shoot himself out of contention with a final-round 82 in South Korea.
"I was a high school student then and it was a pretty bad final round for sure. But in the past two years I have been training with (Japan national team) head coach Gareth Jones, played more big tournaments and that's really helped my development," said the Asian Games team gold medallist, who sank seven birdies to go with two bogeys. "Training with Keita (Nakajima) on a regular basis has also inspired and pushed me to become better."
Thomas and Nakajima both got a spot in The Open Qualifying Series.
Defending champion and third-round leader Lin Yuxin's campaign ended with a whimper - and without a putter. The 17-year-old Chinese snapped the offending club in anger after a three-putt for bogey on the 12th hole and had to putt with an iron the rest of the way, finishing on five-under 275 (69-69-62-75).
Singapore's Gregory Foo also finished on 275 (70-69-69-67) for a share of ninth place, his best finish in eight AAC appearances. It was a fitting capstone to his amateur career.
"I had to remind myself today that it's still a competition and to stay focused but definitely towards the end I was thinking, 'This is it, these are the last few holes of my amateur career',"said the 25-year-old, who is headed for Pakistan next week to play in the Asian Tour's US$300,000 (S$414,000) Chief of Naval Staff Open Golf Championship.
"You do get a bit emotional and a bit nostalgic and it's just nice to end it off by shooting a good score."