Eleventh time lucky! That’s what Vanseiha Seng was hoping to be at the 11th edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Shanghai.
The 27-year-old from Cambodia holds a unique distinction in the history of the region’s premier amateur championship. He has played each one of them starting with the inaugural edition at Mission Hills in China.
Seng returned to mainland China, at the verdant Sheshan International Golf Club this week, with exactly the same hopes and excitement that he felt 10 years ago.
“I remember reading about the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship announcement, and it just blew my mind. I mean, the champion getting an invitation to the Masters! That was awesome,” said Seng, who recorded his personal, as well as Cambodia’s, best round in the championship last year at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore when he shot a three-over-par 73 on day one.
“I was so excited that I could be a part of the championship in 2009. I dreamt of going to the Masters, but I also knew it would be very difficult. And when I reached Mission Hills, I could see the superior level of competition and the preparedness of the players from other countries.
“And I also saw how tough the Mission Hills course was. That has actually been a recurring theme with the tournament every year. We have been to some of the best golf courses in the region and the courses are set up to provide us a severe challenge, which is how it should be.”
Seng has never made it to the weekend in the championship and this year was to be no different. Seng missed the cut with a total score of 18-over after back-to-back rounds of 81 on Thursday and Friday.
“That is the goal every year, as it has been ever since I started playing the tournament,” added Seng.
“Having said that, I want to make it clear that the journey so far has not been a disappointment. I feel like I have learned something new every year I have played the AAC. I also think I am a much better golfer now than I was in 2009, all thanks to this tournament.
“We never had playing opportunities at this level, and we feel lucky just to be a part of it. Then, last year, we were invited to be a part of the inaugural AAC Academy in Singapore where the organisers got together several well-known coaches and trained us on different aspects of the game. I feel I am a completely different player now because of that.
“I knew how to hit the golf ball, but the AAC and the AAC Academy has taught me such crucial elements of the game like course management, warm-up routines, physical training, what can be done with the equipment… the list goes on.
“If I have to put a number, I’d say I was a zero in 2009 and I feel like I am a seven now. That’s how much I have improved because of the AAC.”
Seng learned his game at the Royal Cambodia Golf Club in Phnom Penh, which was one of two golf courses in his country in 2009. There are eight courses in his home country now, and golf is becoming bigger and bigger.
“We just had a new Nick Faldo designed course inaugurated back home. It is so much easier to become a good golfer now. You have the courses, and more importantly, you have some good golf coaches,” added Seng.
“There are more youngsters playing the game in Cambodia now than when I started playing. That is always a good sign.
“Hopefully, we will soon have Cambodian players doing well in this championship. I will continue to give it my best shot. If it doesn’t happen, I will go back, work hard on my game, and I will be back again the next year.”