China’s Yuxin Lin eagled the final hole to seal victory in the Asia-Pacific Amateur and book a start in the 2018 Masters and The Open Championship.
The 17-year-old talent set a new course record with a six-under 65 – and played his final five holes in four-under-par. The phenomenal stretch of golf included a championship-winning eagle at the 18th that edged out his fellow countryman, Andy Zhang, by three shots.
“This definitely means a lot to me, especially to play the Masters and the British Open next year,” Lin said. "Right from the beginning, Andy was on fire. I knew he was going to play very well today."
Lin bested 115 of the greatest amateur golfers in the Asia-Pacific region to win the ninth staging of the tournament – which, for the first time in its history, grants the winner an automatic start in the Open Championship.
The Beijing player began the day with a one-shot lead over his playing partners – Andy Zhang and Australia’s Min Woo Lee – and got off to a steady start with three consecutive pars.
But Zhang, who is China’s highest ranked amateur (39th) player, bolted out of the gates with a birdie at the opening hole, clinching an early share of the lead.
The University of Florida product led for 14 holes throughout the final round and held a share of it after the 16th – but he simply couldn’t keep up with the fast-finishing Lin.
"I did play very well today," Zhang said. "But for Yuxin to finish three, three, three, and to break the course record, I mean, you can't really argue with that ... I would actually hate to lose to someone else who is not a Chinese player."
Meanwhile, Min Woo Lee followed yesterday’s even-par round with another 71. The West Australian fought gallantly all day, making two chip-in birdies at 10 and 18, but found trouble at the drivable par-4 14th hole.
Lee had fallen five behind the leading Lin with only five holes to play. So, quite understandably, he felt he needed to start attacking the Heretaunga course.
But he blocked his drive into knee-high rough and had to re-peg. And although he found the cup in three shots from there, the resulting bogey knocked him out of contention. The 19-year-old finished in a tie for third – seven shots back – with Yechun Yuan, who completed a Chinese trifecta at the top of the leaderboard.
“You want to win, but the way I played, I think third is a good result,” Lee said. “Me and my coach (Ritchie Smith) just talked about it, and we didn’t really get anything going, so coming third and shooting seven-under, we don’t know how we did it.”
Playing in the group ahead, first-round leader Shae Wools-Cobb matched Lee’s even-par round with one of his own. The Queenslander shot three birdies through his first 11 holes, and was as high as fourth on the leaderboard, before carding three disappointing bogies.
Harrison Endycott signed for Australia’s best score of the day – a five-under 66 – and jumped up the leaderboard to clinch the final spot in the top-10. The 21-year-old made an impressive eight birdies, circling his card three times between holes 13 and 15.
Dylan Perry was the next best Aussie in a tie for 15th. The New South Welshman shot a one-over round but enjoyed four consistent days, going 71-69-71-72. Meanwhile, pre-tournament favourite Travis Smyth closed with two consecutive birdies to grab a share of 24th. Charlie Dann (T52) rounded out Australia’s efforts.
Local favourite, Daniel Hillier, shot a pair of 68s over the weekend to finish in a tie for sixth. The Kiwi carded a tremendous 11 birdies in his final two rounds and drew quite the crowd, despite what was going on a few groups behind.
Next year’s event will be held in Singapore – at Sentosa Golf Club – and promises to attract just as much attention as the championship enters its 10th year.