China’s Yuxin Lin brought immense cheers to his home fans when he birdied the par-5 18th twice in a playoff to beat defending champion and World No.1 Takumi Kanaya and become the second two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC).
On Sunday at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, the 2017 champion Lin (68) came to the par-5 18th hole at 11-under par but hit his second shot from the fairway bunker into the water and made a bogey on the final hole of regulation.
Kanaya (69) laid up perfectly and hit his third shot to less than five feet but missed the birdie putt that would have made him the second player to successfully defend his title after fellow AAC champion Hideki Matsuyama (2010 and 2011) of Japan.
The duo both finished 10-under par and entered the first-ever playoff in the championship’s history. Both birdied the first extra hole, No.18, in incredible fashion. Lin muscled his ball out of thick rough with almost no stance, while Kanaya sank a 30-foot putt.
After they returned to No.18 for the second extra hole, it was all over when Lin hit a superb third shot from the greenside bunker to three feet and made the putt, while Kanaya missed his from a longer range.
It was the perfect homecoming for Lin, who earned an invitation the 2020 Masters Tournament and The 149th Open at Royal St George’s in 2020. After shifting his home base to Los Angeles last month where he is now a freshman at the University of Southern California, it was a poignant moment for the 18-year-old Chinese star, who had his father on the bag this week.
“It definitely means a lot to me, especially this week, winning at home is certainly huge for me and for China golf, as well. I’m just really honoured to be alongside Hideki as a two‑time winner,” said Lin, who turns 19 in two weeks.
The 18th hole had proven troublesome for Lin, who played the hole in four over par over his last three rounds.
“I was having a little trouble with the 18th three days in a row. We knew there were extra holes coming up and stepping on the 18th again wasn’t a great feeling for me. And especially that lie off the tee shot, in the first extra hole, definitely not what you wanted. But at least everything turned out pretty well, so pretty satisfied,” added the World No.114, who clinched his first AAC title with an impressive birdie-eagle finish at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand.
“I didn’t really think about the win. I was just trying to play some good golf out there. I made some mistakes throughout the round but stayed patient the whole time.
“It really matters a lot playing against the best amateur in the world right now, and especially to be able to get that win is definitely huge. Obviously, Takumi is a great player. It gives me a lot of confidence to be able to compete with the No.1 player in the world in extra holes.”
A gracious Kanaya, who gained a spot in The Open Qualifying Series as runner-up, revealed his plans to return to the 2020 AAC at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Golf Club for another shot at the title. “I came here with the sole aim of winning the tournament. I did not have the best first round, but I am very proud of the way I fought back. I am so happy for Yuxin, and I will be watching him play the majors and rooting for him.
“I missed that putt on the 72nd hole of regulation play, but I was immediately focused on the playoff. It did not bother me much as I knew I’d have another chance. Yuxin had the advantage on the 18th with his length off the tee. I will now head back home and practice to become better,” he said.
Lin started slow in the final round with a bogey on the par-4 No.1, but the Beijing native quickly recovered with two consecutive birdies, then unleashed three in a row from the 6th onwards to reach 10-under par at the turn.
Kanaya was solid throughout the day and made up for three bogies with six birdies to keep his title defence alive until the very end.
Chinese Taipei’s Yung-Hua Liu (71) made the early charge with a hat-trick of birdies on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd and then added another on the 5th to grab the outright lead. A bogey on the 6th, however, followed by a double on the difficult par-4 9th, reeled him back.
Playing in the final pairing, Liu was in contention for the playoff but three-putted for a bogey on the final hole and finished in a tie for third place at nine-under par.
Also finishing at nine-under par was Thailand’s Tanapat Pichaikool, who eagled the par-5 14th and the 18th for the best round of the day – a seven-under-par 65.
“I just started the day believing that I wasn’t out of the tournament and I gave it a good run. Slightly disappointed with my overall result after the first three days, but I just can’t complain about the way I finished,” said the 19-year-old from Thailand.
Five countries were represented in the top five on the final leader board with Chinese Taipei’s Chun An Yu, Singapore’s James Leow and Ren Yonezawa of Japan finishing in a tie for fifth at eight-under par.
Karl Vilips was the best of the Australians, sharing 8th place, while Blake Windred, who shared the lead at the start of the day, finished 13th after shooting 76.
The AAC was created in 2009 by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A. The championship returns for the third time to mainland China, which hosted the inaugural AAC in 2009 at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, followed by the 2013 edition at Nanshan International Golf Club in Longkou City, Shandong.
The Championship is supported by five Proud Partners – AT&T, 3M, Mercedes-Benz, Delta and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.
The 12th edition of the AAC is set to unfold October 29 – November 1, 2020 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia.