WELLINGTON, New Zealand – China’s Lin Yuxin birdied the 18th to shoot a two-under-par 69 and hold a one-stroke lead after the third round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand, where the winner earns spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
Lin, 17, is eight-under at Royal Wellington Golf Club, where his Australian playing partner Min Woo Lee (71) also birdied 18 to move to seven-under and draw level with China’s top-ranked amateur, Andy Zhang (67), now in his second year at the University of Florida. The trio will play together in the final group on Sunday, teeing off at 9:25 a.m. off the first tee.
Australia’s Shae Wools-Cobb (71), the first-round leader, is five-under and one ahead of China’s Yuan Yechun (69) and New Zealand’s Kerry Mountcastle (70), a Royal Wellington member. Japan’s Keita Nakajima (70) and Lloyd Jefferson Go (71) of the Philippines are tied for seventh at three-under.
Lin started the day a shot behind Lee and fired out of the blocks with birdies on one, four and five to lead at nine-under. However, at the sixth hole he suffered a triple bogey – his second of the week – and dropped another shot on nine before cruising home with birdies at 13, 14 and 18, where he hit his third shot from a greenside bunker to three feet.
“It was a pretty good shot from the bunker because it was such an awkward stance, so I’m pretty satisfied with a birdie on the last,” said Lin, who arrived in Wellington after impressive showings in European Challenge Tour and Asian Tour events.
“I’m pretty satisfied with my score, especially after the triple on six,” he said. “I tried to stay calm this time and it paid off. Like I said yesterday, it would be such an honor to win this event and play in the Masters and The Open. It would be such a good experience.”
Lin, whose mother has been among his supporters all week, will play with Lee for a second day, but will be playing with compatriot Zhang for the first time in a competitive event.
“Min Woo didn’t hit it really well today and missed a few fairways, but he still shot even par,” said Lin, the only amateur to make the cut in the European Tour’s Shenzhen International in April. “I’ve played with Andy in a practice round, but not a real tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, especially with three Chinese players challenging.”
“I think I’ll be pretty calm,” he continued. “I wasn’t nervous today and was just trying to make as many birdies as possible. I’m not that nervous because I’ve played in lots of big events. I’m used to playing with the crowds so I’ll stick with my game plan.”
Lee, younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee, admitted it wasn’t one of his better ball striking days but still managed an eagle at the par-five fourth to help recover from a bogey on the par-five second. Birdies at 14 and 18 helped offset bogeys at eight, 12 and 16.
“I felt like I had my ‘C game’ today, but I finished pretty well at even par,” said the 19-year-old, last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur champion. “Tomorrow, the strategy is the same as the last three days – to hit every fairway, hit every green. I just need to stay patient and be aggressive at the same time so hopefully those two things blend together. It’s a course where you can go low if you can hit fairways, then you just need to hole some putts.”
Beijing-born Zhang, 19, recovered from a double bogey on the par-five second to put together a run of six birdies in eight holes starting from seven, including three in a row from 12.
“I had a shaky start,” said Zhang who moved to Florida when he was 10 and played in the U.S. Open when he was 14. “I felt a little under the weather for the first few holes, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years it’s the importance of patience and discipline. I didn’t even know I had three birdies in a row.”
“I also try not to look at the leader board,” he continued. “I didn’t even see the scores until I had a short putt on the last and accidentally saw the leader board and that I was leading. It was like, wow! The patience and discipline paid off. Now I’m feeling good, very good, much better than I thought I was going to.”
The final round will begin Saturday at 7:45 a.m. off the first and 10th tees at Royal Wellington. Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold and entry is free of charge.
The AAC is organised by three Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A. This week’s event features 116 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.