China’s Bo Jin surged to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the Amata Spring Country Club, in Chonburi, Thailand on Thursday.
The Oklahoma State University star started with a bogey but then made an eagle and six birdies to finish on seven-under par 65. That gave him an early two-shot advantage over local hero and the highest-ranked player in the field, world No. 12 Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat, the in-form James Leow of Singapore and Japan’s Ryuta Suzuki.
On a day when preferred lies were in use after an overnight thunder shower, the players took advantage of softer and receptive greens with 49 shooting even-par or better.
It could have all gone horribly wrong for Jin, brother of the 2015 AAC champion Cheng Jin. He was scheduled to be one of the last players to reach Thailand but when he reached Oklahoma City airport, he could not find his name on the passenger list. In the end, he bought a fresh ticket to Los Angeles, which helped him catch his Qatar Airways flight to Doha on time.
Jin Delighted with Opening Round
“It’s hard not to be happy with a 65 after all that. I played great today, and the putter behaved all day. I just wish I can now have three similar rounds,” said Jin, who led at the halfway stage of the championship last year in Dubai Creek Golf & Country Club before finishing tied third.
“I reached here in time for one practice round. I’d have ideally preferred two. And then I made a horrible bogey on the first and I nearly pushed my second shot into the water on the second. It somehow stayed in a bunker and I made a birdie which just changed everything. It was a very important birdie from the bunker.
“It’s just the first round so there is a long way to go but I am delighted with the start.”
Tk 'Needs this win'
For the 15-year-old Chantananuwat, it was a tale of two nines. He struggled with his driver throughout the first nine and then had to endure three birdie putts lipping out on the back nine in a stretch where he had birdie chances on all nine holes and his longest birdie putt was from 21 feet.
“It was the most disappointing 67 I have ever shot. Of course, if you had given that score to me at the start of the day I would have taken it,” said the bogey-free Chantananuwat.
“I was hitting my driver so bad on the front nine and then, at the turn, my father (also his caddie) told me to pay attention to my alignment and tempo. I hit every fairway and green on the back nine but kept missing putts, including on the 17th and 18th holes from inside seven to eight feet.”
“Being hard on myself is the only reason why I’m at this level at a young age. If I’m happy with a 5‑under, I’m never going to win this event. I must keep my head down and I have to get there the next three days.
“This is the tournament I want to win most in my life. On the Asian Tour, there are 12 events I can play every year but this only comes once a year and it only comes to Thailand once every 10-12 years. Let me put it this way – I don’t want this, I need this. It's a big difference.”
Injury battle for Leow
A slight neck sprain early in the morning restricted Leow’s movements but it wasn’t enough to stop him from shooting a 67.
The 25-year-old from Singapore, enjoying some of the best form of his career that has helped him win two college golf titles in the United States and reach the round of 16 in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in the past few months, made just one bogey – on the difficult par-3 8th.
“I could feel it in my neck when I reached the 10th tee and I couldn’t turn my upper body as much as I needed to. I kept my strategy simple after that and played to my strengths. I don’t like to push for extra yardage or try to like hit certain hero shots. So the sprain could have helped,” said Leow.
“I played well. I hit a couple of them to tap-in distances. I think my last six holes, which was the front nine, was feeling a little tougher and required a lot of flight control and distance control. I was disappointed with not making a birdie on the par-5 7th, rather than the bogey on the par-3 8th, because that is a really long hole and one of the toughest on the golf course.”
Japan’s Suzuki posted six birdies and dropped just the one shot on the par four 6th while Singapore’s Leow, who started at the 10th, carded four birdies in his first seven holes.
Wenyi Ding, the reigning US Junior Amateur champion from China and the second highest-ranked player in the field at No. 17 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, was one of seven players tied for 13th place at three-under par 69.
Created in 2009, the AAC was established to further develop amateur golf in the Asia-Pacific region. The champion will receive an invitation to compete in the 2023Masters Tournament and The 151stnd Open, while the runner(s)-up will gain a place in Final Qualifying for The Open.
by Joy Chakravarty