INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – Brett Coletta will take a two-shot lead over fellow Australian Cameron Davis into tomorrow’s final round of the eighth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.
One ahead of Davis at the start of the day, Coletta produced a third-round 68 to follow up on successive 67s in the opening two rounds. The Championship debutant sank a 40-foot putt at the par-three 17th and holed out for another birdie at the last to move to 14 under par at the venue for the Presidents Cup last October.
Davis (69) is bidding to better his joint runner-up finish last year as he challenges once again for the places in the Masters Tournament and The Open Qualifying Series offered to the winner and the runner(s)-up.
Junya Kameshiro (71), Japan’s top-ranked amateur, is eight under and will again play in the final three-man group with the big-hitting Australians. All three are playing in Korea for the first time.
Curtis Luck (70), the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and the world’s second-ranked amateur, is fourth at seven under, one ahead of Japan’s Takumi Kanaya (70).
California-based KK Limbhasut (73), Thailand’s top amateur, shares sixth at four under with Kazuki Higa (67), runner-up to Kameshiro at the Japan Amateur in July.
New Zealand’s Luke Toomey (70) is eighth on three under, one ahead of compatriot Nick Voke (71) and two clear of U.S.-based Korean Lee Won-jun (73), Chinese Taipei’s Yu Chun-an (73) and Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira (76).
Coletta, 20, was five shots clear of Davis after the seventh following his fourth birdie of the day, but bogeys at eight and 16 left him just one ahead. The leader bounced back with his birdie on 17 before both players birdied the par-five last.
“I feel really confident,” Coletta said after the event’s windiest day so far. “I got off to a hot start then plateaued through the middle. The holes in the middle are really tough. The drives on 10, 11 and 12 are really demanding in this wind. I’m very happy with my finish as it’s reinforcement for tomorrow.”
Melbourne-based Coletta is the lowest-ranked member of the six-strong Australian group in Incheon and has described himself as the ‘baby’ of the group, but last year’s U.S. Amateur stroke play medallist is the team’s longest hitter and often flew past the big-hitting Davis by 20 yards.
Coletta, who gives up six inches in height to the taller Davis, said he’s looking forward to another day competing against his compatriot.
“You’ve just got to put it down to the best on the day wins. There’s no grudge between any of us. We’ll tee it up tomorrow the same deal as today. I think it’s great,” said Coletta who contracted glandular fever in June but recovered to play events in the United States in July and August.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the thought of playing in the Masters and The Open as well does turn your stomach a little bit. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’ve just got to go about your business and the best man will win.”
Like Coletta, Davis is trying to win a place in the Masters and The Open to join teammate Luck, who earned his berths by winning the U.S. Amateur in August.
“It was really good to grind out a good score, and I’m looking forward to another challenging day with Brett,” said Davis who two weeks ago was the leading individual at the World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico, where Australia won the Eisenhower Trophy by 19 strokes.
“I guess after the tournament one of us is going to be a little happier than the other or someone else might have a great round tomorrow. You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Kameshiro, the reigning Japan Amateur champion, is bidding to become the first Japanese champion since Hideki Matsuyama retained his title in 2011, but the 21-year-old admits that he will have to attack early if he is to catch the big-hitting Australians.
“Eight under after three days is good for me. I putted well and chipped well today, but my second shots weren’t good enough. I needed more birdies,” said Kameshiro, who tied for seventh in a Japan Tour event last week after a joint-sixth finish against the pros in April.
“On every hole, my drive is 15 metres and 20 metres behind the Australians. If I am to win tomorrow, I need to get more birdies on the front nine.”
Limbhasut, a third-year student at the University of California—Berkeley, and Yu, a freshman at Arizona State, are the leading players from nations who haven’t won the trophy before, following wins by players from South Korea (2009, 2013), Japan (2010, 2011), China (2012, 2015) and Australia (2014).
This week’s AAC features 118 players from 38 APGC member associations. Television coverage includes three hours of live broadcast on each of the four days and a 30-minute highlights show, and will be aired in more than 160 countries, once again making it the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament.
Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. Entry to the 2016 AAC is free of charge.