BANGKOK – Putra Cup champion Jonathan Woo is Singapore’s top hope at this week’s fourth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which tees off today at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, outside Bangkok.
Woo, who is in his second year at the University of Oregon in the US, romped to a nine-stroke victory in last month’s Putra Cup in Indonesia, the Southeast Asian team golf championship, and is currently Asia’s No. 12 and the top-ranked Singaporean in the 120-man field.
Singapore hosted the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last year and this year’s line-up from the Lion City also includes Jerome Ng, playing his fourth straight championship, Marc Ong and Melvin Chew, who both competed last year, and debutants Nicklaus Chiam and Abdul Hadi.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan has won the past two titles after Han Chang-won of Korea won the inaugural championship in 2009, but Woo thinks he has an outside shot of springing a surprise at Amata Spring, especially if he can reproduce last month’s form.
“I’d like to win, but my target for this week is at least top 10, which would be good,” said Woo, who finished eighth on his only previous appearance in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2009.
“I was expecting to win the Putra Cup because I was playing really well, but I didn’t expect to win by that much because a lot of the Thai guys are really good and there were quite a lot of other good players out there.
“Winning it has given me a lot of confidence in my game, but at the same time, I know it’s a lot more competitive this week because there are players from all across Asia-Pacific, including Korea, Japan and Australia. I’m looking forward to it and it should be fun, especially after not playing the last two tournaments.”
Woo is friends with several of the US-based players in this week’s event, including second-ranked Pan Cheng-tsung of Chinese Taipei, Arie Fauzi of Malaysia and Philippine No. 1 Anton Arboleda.
Singapore and Malaysia both have six representatives in Thailand, the maximum for all teams except Thailand, who have 10 as the host nation is allowed a further four players.
Low Khai Jei was Malaysia’s top finisher last year, in joint 12th place, and is another of Southeast Asia’s top hopes after winning last month’s Malaysian Junior Open by 13 strokes.
Abel Tam, Chan Tuck Soon and first-timers Muhammad Afif Razif, Albright Chong and Fauzi – a 22-year-old senior at the University of Tulsa – will also represent Malaysia.
Arboleda, who reached the last 16 of this year’s US Amateur, is currently Asia’s No. 10 amateur. The UCLA student is part of a five-strong Philippines team including California-based Rico Hoey, winner of this year’s Junior World Championships (15-17 division), Rupert Zaragosa, John Kier Abdon and Lloyd Jefferson Go.
Vaughan McCall, winner of this year’s New Zealand Amateur and New Zealand Stroke Play events, returns to the championship after finishing joint-ninth last year and is joined by Kiwi compatriots James Beale, Compton Pikari, Blair Riordan, Daniel Pearce and Peter Lee.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship features 120 players from the APGC’s 36 member associations. The event offers the winner an invitation to the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship.
Television coverage will include two hours of live broadcast on each of the four days and a 30-minute highlights show, and will be aired in more than 150 countries, confirming it as the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament.
STAR Sports will broadcast live coverage on all four days in Thailand (3.00pm-5.00pm) and many other countries and territories across Asia. Tokyo Broadcasting System (Japan), SBS Golf (Korea), Guangdong Golf Channel (China), Fox Sports (Australia), Sky Sports (New Zealand) and Fox Sports (Middle East) will cover other key markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The championship will be shown live in the United States (4.00am-6.00am Eastern Time) on ESPNU (November 1-2) and then ESPN2 (November 3-4). Other broadcasters include ESPN (Latin America), Supersport (Africa), TSN (Canada) and CNBC Europe. All of the coverage will also be streamed live on the official event Web site, www.AACgolf.com.