China’s Yuxin Lin is hoping to get a sense of déjà vu on Saturday afternoon when the champion is crowned at the 12th edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
Lin, the 21-year-old defending champion, won at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai in 2019. After the AAC was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lin is back and excited about his fifth appearance at the region’s premier amateur golf championship.
There are six players ranked inside the top-50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), including No.1-ranked Keita Nakajima of Japan, with Lin currently sitting at No.23.
In 2019, Lin, now a junior at the University of Florida, defeated defending AAC champion Takumi Kanaya of Japan in a play-off and became only the second player to win the championship twice following reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama in 2010 and 2011. It’s a coincidence that Kanaya was also the WAGR No.1.
“Winning it for a third time is the goal. Obviously, Keita is a great player, and he’s had a lot of success, just like a lot of other players in the field. It is going to be a battle out there, and I just have to try and play my best. That’s all I can control,” said Lin, who finished T-9 in Singapore in 2018 and T-21 in South Korea in 2016, and is only one of two players to shoot 62, the lowest round in AAC history.
“I have beaten a World No.1 before, so I know it can be done. I have played The Masters and The Open two times because of this championship, so I know I can play in the big tournaments.
“This championship is special for me. To be honest, I don’t really know why I tend to play well in this event. Maybe, this is my lucky event. I just feel that coming back here is always special.”
Nakajima, also 21, has been in brilliant form. In July this year, he won the Japan Amateur Championship and then became only the fifth amateur in the history of the professional Japan Golf Tour to win a title (Panasonic Open).
“It is an honour to attend this championship as the World No.1. I just hope I can play well and play with confidence,” said Nakajima, who had mentioned in an interview earlier this year that his main goals in 2021 were to win a professional tournament and the AAC.
“I have not spoken this week to Takumi (his best friend) or Hideki-san, who is always a great source of inspiration for all Japanese players. He has provided great news for Japanese fans year after year through his achievements, and I want to follow in his footsteps. I had spoken to Takumi earlier, and he told me that the Dubai courses are difficult and to expect strong winds.”
UAE’s Ahmad Skaik, the top-ranked player in the country, will have the honour of hitting the inaugural tee shot of the championship at 7:15 local time on Wednesday.
“It is an honour … for Dubai to host the tournament, and for me to be hitting the opening shot of the tournament. It is very special. I’m just excited to get going, and it is good to go out first,” said the 24-year-old left-hander.
“My form is pretty good. This is my second tournament in six months. So, let’s see how that goes. The AAC is a very big tournament, and it means a lot to me to do well, especially here in my country. I’ve played the event three times and didn’t play as well as I wanted, so I’m hoping that I’ll make the cut and play much better than before.”
Created in 2009, the AAC was established to further develop amateur golf in the Asia-Pacific region. The champion receives an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament and The Open, while the runner(s)-up gain a place in Final Qualifying for The Open.
The 2020 AAC was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 championship marks the first edition held in the UAE, one of the APGC’s 42 member countries, and joins the numerous professional and amateur events Dubai hosts annually, including the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic and DP World Tour Championship.
Over the AAC’s 12-year history, the championship has served as a springboard to some of the world’s top players today, including Matsuyama, a two-time AAC winner and 2021 Masters champion.