China has emerged as a dominant force in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in recent years and they are keen to continue their remarkable run as the 10th edition is played at Sentosa Golf Club’s New Tanjong course this week.
The first AAC was held at Mission Hills in China in 2009, but no player from the mainland ever made it to the top 10 until 14-year-old Guan Tianlang made history by winning the 2012 championship, and went on to become the youngest player ever to make the cut at the Masters in 2013.
Thereafter, Jin Cheng (2015, Hong Kong) and Lin Yuxin (2017, Wellington) became AAC champions and helped China become the country with the most AAC titles at three. Last year was a particularly strong showing for the Chinese golfers and unprecedented for the championship as four players from one country finished inside the top five.
“I don’t think there is any secret to what we did last year. Doesn’t matter what you do, you just have to go out there and hit the golf ball well,” said the defending champion Lin.
Andy Zhang, who finished runner-up to Lin in Wellington, added: “The last few years, we have done really well. We have felt like we are the favourites whichever event we go to. Having your teammates winning is a good motivation for others and they try even harder.
“I think China has been trying really hard to grow the game of golf. Lot of kids back home are playing the game now. Maybe we entered late compared to other countries but we picked it up really fast. We now have a lot of winners…Li Haotong is now a world top-50 player. And this tournament is reflective of that change.”
The China Golf Association (CGA) also provides the amateurs with plenty of playing opportunities in professional tournaments.
“We have a lot of professional events in China now. We have the PGA Tour China and the China Tours, we have a World Golf Championship event and a couple of European Tour events and plenty of other smaller tournaments. There is a lot of opportunity for our players to play against the world’s best, and that not only helps our golf game, but also makes us mentally stronger,” chipped in Cheng.
Lin returned to the game after a couple of months away following a freak wrist injury while testing drivers in America, while Zhang has been suffering from a stomach bug ever since he got into Singapore from Dallas, Texas, where he finished tied for the fourth place in the Web.com Tour Q-School and advanced to the second stage with a 16-under-par score.
A winner by three shots in Wellington thanks to a final-round 65, Lin explained: “I just tried a very heavy driver and felt pain in my wrist. I am much better and pain-free now. I have practiced a lot the last couple of weeks. My game is not 100 percent there yet but I am pretty sure I will be ready when the tournament starts.”
Zhang was in a bullish mood despite not being able to put in a complete round of practice.
“I met a doctor on Tuesday and I was feeling very weak. But I am much better today. I played well in Dallas and that will give me a lot of confidence this week even though the two courses could not have been more different,” he added.