Kanaya swings into the majors

After a "pretty bad final round" two years ago, Takumi Kanaya finally got to lift the trophy at the 10th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship yesterday.
After a "pretty bad final round" two years ago, Takumi Kanaya finally got to lift the trophy at the 10th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship yesterday.PHOTO: ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner earns right to play Masters, British Open

Scant minutes after becoming the first Japanese player to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) since 2011 yesterday, Takumi Kanaya received a phone call from the man whose footsteps he followed in - world No. 21 Hideki Matsuyama.

"He congratulated me and said he is looking forward to our 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 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 AAC 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 at the Sentosa Golf Club's New Tanjong Course, holding off compatriot and Asian Games champion Keita Nakajima (67) and Rayhan Thomas (66), who secured India's best 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 after a 75 for a share of ninth place.

Singapore's Gregory Foo also finished on 275 (67), 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, 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$413,000) 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Kanaya swings into the majors'. Print Edition | Subscribe