October 25, 2017: New Zealand’s leading players have emphasized how important it would be for the country’s golf development if one of the host’s 10-strong team could win this week’s ninth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Wellington Golf Club.
Players from Australia, China, Korea and Japan have each claimed the trophy twice in the first eight years of the AAC and the New Zealand team believe hosting the championship for the first time has provided a golden opportunity for one of their own to lift the trophy.
Nick Voke, the country’s top-ranked player at 44 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), is looking to better his 11th-place finish in Korea last year, having tied for 19th in 2015 and finished 33rd in 2013.
“I think everyone can understand the magnitude of this event,” said the 23-year-old Voke, who graduated from Iowa State University this year.
“I think the mission of this championship is to improve grassroots golf and I think a New Zealand victory this week would be huge for the foundation of golf in this country. That’s why we’re here competing this week and why we’ll be putting our best foot forward.”
Hillier, the country’s second-ranked amateur, has been touted as one of the host’s top hopes due to his excellent form over the past two years and his membership of Royal Wellington, where he practices regularly. This week’s champion will earn spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and, for the first time, The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
“With this being in New Zealand, it’s a huge opportunity for New Zealand Golf and us amateur golfers to really put our names out there and try our best to win a pretty major prize. It’s going to be an awesome week and we are all looking forward to it,” said the 19-year-old who tied for 15th on his debut in Korea last year.
Left-handed Luke Brown, the country’s fourth-ranked amateur, said all 10 New Zealand players would be supporting each other. As much as each player wants to win, there’s an overriding desire for a local to lift the trophy.
“We’re not just doing it for ourselves,” said the 22-year-old Brown, who finished 21st last year. “We’re doing it for our country, families and friends. They’re always behind us and there’s a lot of support. If one of us Kiwis could win, it doesn’t matter who it is, we’ll be out there supporting them.”
Ryan Chisnall, New Zealand’s third-ranked amateur, conceded that the Australian players start as favorites, especially as the team features four of the championship’s top five ranked players. Chisnall was also part of the team who played a friendly match against Australia at Royal Wellington in early September.
“Obviously there’s a lot of buzz around this event. It’s massive for our country and we’re pretty proud to have everyone here in New Zealand,” said Chisnall who’s playing the AAC for a third straight year.
“We play a lot with the Aussies, so we’ve formed some pretty good friendships. It was pretty cool for us to spend a few days with them and see how they go about their work leading into an event and all the information they try to gather. They have twice had champions in this event, so we would prefer it to be one of us this week!”
India’s Rayhan Thomas and US-based ‘Kevin’ Yu Chun-an of Chinese Taipei are among highly ranked players from countries yet to win the AAC, and Voke said a champion from outside the ‘big four’ would be special.
“A few countries have dominated this event in the past and if this championship is all about growing the game in this region, I think it would just promote that further if we do have a new champion. I think it would be pretty big,” Voke said.
“A new champion is just going to grow the game, so that’s a positive, but I’m obviously biased so I hope one of these boys beside me or myself can come up with the goods.”
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) is organised by the Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A – and will be televised across 160 countries and reach millions of homes around the world.
The Championship is also supported by six Proud Partners – AT&T, 3M, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Zurich and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.