One of the pre-tournament favourites, the ASU graduate shows his experience of playing five AACs and surges to a solid five-under par 67.
A slight neck sprain early in the morning restricted James Leow’s movements, but it wasn’t enough to stop him charging to the top of the leaderboard halfway into the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC), which started at the Amata Springs Country Club, in Chonburi, Thailand.
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 US Mid-Amateur Championship in the past few months, made a superb start to his campaign with a five-under par 67.
On a day when preferred lies rules were in play after late night thundershower in Chonburi, the Arizona State University graduate was one ahead of Japan’s Riura Matsui and the Kiwi duo Joshua Bai and Jimmy Hydes.
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 three players who closed with a three-under par 69. That group included his compatriot Ziqin Zhou, who undid some of his good work with late double bogeys on the fourth and seventh holes after starting from the 10th tee, and Australia’s Harrison Crowe.
Singaporean Overcomes Injury Challenge
Leow has struggled with his neck the last couple of years, and reckons he sprained it when trying to get an extra shoulder turn while hitting balls at the driving range this morning.
“I could feel it 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. Hit a couple of them to tap-in distances. I think my last six holes, which is 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 seventh, rather than the bogey on the par-3 eighth, because that is a really long hole and one of the toughest on the golf course.”
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 2024 Masters Tournament and The 152nd Open, while the runner(s)-up will gain a place in Final Qualifying for The Open.
by Joy Chakravarty