Wellington winner Yuxin Lin repeats at Shanghai in dramatic style
Yuxin Lin from China brought immense cheers to his home fans when he birdied the par five 18th hole twice in a playoff to beat defending champion and world No 1 amateur Takumi Kanaya to become the second two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
On final day of the tournament at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, Lin came to the final hole of regulation play at 11 under par but hit his second shot from the fairway bunker into the water and made a bogey.
Kanaya, meanwhile, 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 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in 2010 and 2011.
Lin and Kanaya finished at 10 under par and entered the championship’s first playoff. 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 putt from much longer range.
It was the perfect homecoming for Lin, who earned an invitation to the 2020 Masters Tournament and The Open at Royal St George’s in 2020.
After shifting his home base to Los Angeles the previous 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 for the 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,’’ said Lin who turned 19 two weeks later.
“I’m just really honoured to be alongside Hideki as a two‑time winner.”
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 Lin, who was the world No 114 and who clinched his first Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with an impressive birdie-eagle finish at Royal Wellington Golf Club.
“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 Asia-Pacific Amateur at 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.”
Lin started slow in the final round with a bogey on the par four No 1, but the Beijing native quickly recovered with two consecutive birdies, then unleashed three in a row from the sixth onwards to reach 10 under par at the turn.
Kanaya was solid throughout the day and made up for three bogeys with six birdies to keep his title defence alive until the very end.
Chinese Taipei’s Yung-Hua Liu made the early charge with a hat-trick of birdies on the first, second and third and then added another on the fifth to grab the outright lead. A bogey on the sixth, however, followed by a double bogey on the difficult par four ninth, 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 five 14th and the 18th for the best round of the day – a seven-under par 65.
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.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was created in 2009 by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club hosts the 12th edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur from October 29-November 1.