Entering the 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship as one of the hottest players in the amateur game, New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori birdied four of his first five holes en route to an opening five-under 66 to lead after the first round.
Kobori leads Jasper Stubbs, Hyun Uk Kim and Billy Dowling by two strokes through 18 holes at Royal Melbourne Golf Club’s Composite Course.
“It was a hell of a round. If you had given me five under at the start of the day, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. Very happy to finish with a 66,” said Kobori, whose 66 set a new Championship low round at Royal Melbourne, besting several 67s when the Championship was last at the venue in 2014.
The Composite Course this week consists of 12 holes from the West Course and six holes from the East Course. Kobori’s birdies came at Nos. 10 (No. 4 West), 11 (No. 5 West), 12 (No. 6 West), 13 (No. 1 East) and 17 (No. 17 East).
Birthday Delight for the Kiwi
The Kiwi, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday as he moved up to No. 24 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, has enjoyed a very successful year thus far, claiming individual titles at the Western Amateur, the World Amateur Team Championship and the Australian Amateur all since January. His older sister Momoka Kobori is currently on the Ladies European Tour.
“I rolled the ball pretty nicely on the greens, and I took advantage of the holes that were easy,” said Kobori. “You know, there's no easy holes out there but some are harder than others. Yeah, I took good advantage of them and had a few lucky breaks, and then just held on for dear life on the hard holes.”
Home Hopes Alive
Australia’s Dowling and Stubbs, who hit the opening tee shot of the Championship, and Korea’s Kim sit two strokes back in windy conditions. Kim bogeyed his first hole, the Championship’s ninth, but rebounded with five birdies across his final 15 holes. Dowling carded two birdies and an eagle at the par-3 17th while Stubbs tallied seven birdies across his scorecard to lead the Australian contingent.
“It's awesome; I mean, some of the names that have come before me that we see up on the big stage now, hopefully one day I can put my name alongside those,” said Stubbs. “The opportunity has been great so far. Really enjoying the week and I'm hoping to just keep going.”
Other notable results include last year’s runner-up, China’s Bo Jin, at T9, while Vietnam’s Anh Minh Nguyen sits T19. The highest finish by a Vietnamese player in the Championship’s 14-year history is T46.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur field comprises 120 of the top male amateurs from the Asia-Pacific region. The 2023 field features players from 37 nations, all competing to secure an exemption into The Open and an invitation to the Masters Tournament in 2024. The Championship was created in 2009 by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation in an effort to further develop amateur golf throughout the region.