October 4, 2016: Jin Cheng is bidding to become the first player to retain the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship title since Hideki Matsuyama in 2011 but the 18-year-old says if he doesn’t achieve the feat he wants one of his Chinese compatriots to lift the trophy in South Korea.
“We definitely want to keep the trophy in China. This year, like every year, I think we have a great team,” said Jin, whose victory in Hong Kong last year earned him a spot at this year’s Masters Tournament and in The Open Qualifying Series.
“For every amateur golfer in China, we really look forward to this week, as it’s the biggest tournament in the Asia-Pacific region. It always gives us a strong sense of representing our country.
“Although the tournament is individual stroke play all the Chinese players team up and wear the same uniform and all the other countries do it too. I think the biggest challengers are Australia, Japan and Korea but I believe that there are good players from every country.”
Jin, now a freshman at University of Southern California, and 17-year-old Guan Tianlang, the 2012 champion, are both playing in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship for the fifth straight year.
The pair are leading members of a seven-strong China contingent that also includes event debutant Andy Zhang, the third member of the team with major championship experience, having played in the 2012 US Open when he was 14.
It’s Jin, however, who takes centre stage as defending champion and China’s top-ranked player at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Korea, a course that earned global attention at the Presidents Cup last October.
“When you defend a title, you’re obviously the centre of attention but that’s part of the tournament,” said Jin, currently No. 11 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“It’s a really great feeling and I’m really looking forward to this week, as I watched most of the Presidents Cup last year and the course looked awesome on TV.”
Jin has played in Korea once before, representing China in a team event in 2014, the year he became the first amateur to win on the PGA TOUR China Series and won the Volvo China Junior Match Play Championship, earning a berth in The European Tour’s Volvo China Open last year.
In October 2015, he won the seventh Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship off the back of a course-record 62 in the opening round at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, where the championship was reduced to 54 holes due to inclement weather.
Last December, Jin tied for 11th at the Asian Tour’s star-studded Thailand Golf Championship and earlier this year made the cut at European Tour events in Qatar and Malaysia before making his debut at the Masters Tournament, where he shot rounds of 79 and 78.
“The Masters was just an unforgettable experience. It’s just such an awesome place. That’s the place you want to be as a golfer. You just learn so much,” Jin said.
“This week, there’s a pressure that comes at a tournament that gets you to the Masters but I’m just going to try to play my best. The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is such a highly ranked tournament, so it’s always a strong field.”
|Roll of Honour|
|2009||HAN Chang-won (Korea)||Mission Hills, Shenzhen, China|
|2010||Hideki MATSUYAMA (Japan)||Kasumigaseki CC, Saitama, Japan|
|2011||Hideki MATSUYAMA (Japan)||The Singapore Island CC, Singapore|
|2012||GUAN Tianlang (China)||Amata Spring CC, Chonburi, Thailand|
|2013||LEE Chang-woo (Korea)||Nanshan International GC, Shandong, China|
|2014||Antonio MURDACA (Australia)||The Royal Melbourne GC, Melbourne, Australia|
|2015||JIN Cheng (China)||The Clearwater Bay G&CC, Hong Kong|