Two teenage players – Anson Yeo and Anh Minh Nguyen – from developing golf countries make the cut and justify the faith of the Founding Partners in creating the Academy.
In just its second year of operation, one of Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship’s (AAC) efforts to grow the game in the region has started bearing fruits.
Established in 2019 by the Founding Partners of the championship – the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), The Masters and The R&A – the AAC Academy was created to provide players from developing countries with cutting-edge knowledge on key areas such as sport psychology, strength and conditioning, swing analysis, short game instruction and technical swing improvement.
The inaugural camp was held in Singapore ahead of the 11th AAC in Shanghai. After a gap of two years – when the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to be conducted – two AAC Academies were held this year at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand and Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
None of the eight players – from five countries – who participated in the inaugural Academy at Sentosa Golf Club made the cut in the 2019 championship.
Growing the Game
Outlining the thought behind AAC Academy, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, had said at the start of the week: “We ran the first academy in 2019, and it was all about taking the countries that are not making the cut, and maybe don’t have the resources to provide all the training, and all of the things that you need to be able to be successful at the very top level, and giving it to them.
“We had 21 players from 16 different countries, and we brought the best coaches in the game, nutrition, strength, conditioning, all the aspects that the best countries would give to their players, and exposed them to a week‑long training camp. I will be very interested to look at the players who have just been through that Academy and how they play this week.”
To the delight of Slumbers and the Founding Partners, the results this year has been extremely encouraging. Two teenage players – Malaysia’s 16-year-old Anson Yeo and 15-year-old Anh Minh Nguyen from Vietnam – made it to the weekend.
Equally heroic was the performance of 19-year-old Randy Bintang. The Indonesian shot the best round of Friday, a six-under par 66, that included four straight birdies to start and birdie-birdie finish on the two toughest holes on the golf course (17th and 18th), but heartbreakingly missed the cut by one.
It has helped the players in different ways, making them better overall, but also giving them an edge in specific areas.
“I learned so much in the one week,” said Yeo of his stint at Amata Spring. “I think I am a much more knowledgeable player now, and it is only going to make me better.
“If I have to look at one thing that has helped me, I’d say I felt the immediate impact of the stretching exercises that we were taught. I was not doing it properly before, and ever since the Academy, I feel I am somehow better prepared for a round just because I stretched my body properly.”
Just the Beginning
Nguyen added the Academy played a vital role in his success.
“The Academy was great. I got to meet new friends and new teachers, whio were all so helpful with my game and my fitness. We spoke about things like golf course management and that has been a big help. I would like to thank them for helping me conquer this course this week.”
Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Masters Tournament, said the AAC Academy, similar to other initiatives like Drive, Chip and Putt during the Masters week, was part of his organization’s efforts to reach and nourish the game at the grassroots level.
“The championship is really just the beginning. That’s just a catalyst for these other things, and the Academy is really sort of the next step. It’s great that we are doing this and creating these heroes that we’ve talked about who’d have an impact as they go back home to their countries. But, we really needed to get more to the grass roots, and that’s what the academies are all about.
- By Joy Chakravarty