HONG KONG: Jerome Ng was a fresh-faced teen when he rolled up at Mission Hills to take part in the inaugural Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in 2009.
Six years on and the Singaporean finds himself at the familiar surrounds of Hong Kong’s Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club with the unmatched record of having participated in every single edition of the region’s premier amateur tournament.
More than any other player, Ng has seen at first hand the development of a championship that has made heroes of the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Guan Tianlang.
From that first event in China, Ng has been there every step of the way. He’s had success too, making every cut and enjoying a tied-eighth finish at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club 12 months ago.
“Back in 2009, everyone was wondering what to expect from the event,” remembers the now 26-year-old. “The spot at Augusta [that goes to the winner] was obviously the big thing but before we arrived, we had no idea what the tournament was going to be like. Once there we quickly found out. It was fantastic. None of us had played an event that treated the players so well and it has only got better.”
Ng didn’t expect to find himself in this week’s elite 120-man field, having taken up full-time employment at an investment bank earlier this year. But despite playing a much-reduced schedule, Ng racked up enough World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) points to ensure he qualified for the seventh successive time.
The impact that the AAC has made on the strength of the region’s golf, he says, cannot be overstated.
“The AAC has been a great education for those young players who have aspirations of turning pro and playing on tour,” says Ng. “Seeing Hideki [Matsuyama], who has gone on to become one of the world’s best and who is a great role model, gives players from the region a lot of belief.”
Ng, who was part of the Singaporean team that won the Southeast Asian Amateur Golf Team Championship for the Putra Cup at Clearwater Bay four years ago, says that two of the biggest differences between the AAC in 2009 and 2015 is the average age of the field and the standard of play.
“The players are just getting younger and younger, which is very positive as it shows there’s a flow of new talent in the region,” he continues. “The quality of play has also progressed. Australia [thanks to Adam Scott’s Masters victory in 2013] already has a Green Jacket, but other countries in Asia-Pacific now believe they can produce players that can win one too.”
Ng, himself, plays down his own hopes of victory this week and has ruled out extending his streak and playing in the 2016 AAC.
“This is definitely my last one,” he laughs. “I love playing but it’s becoming harder to stay competitive now that I’m working. But let’s see. What will be, will be.”