Battling Ervin moves to red numbers

Ervin CHANG of Malaysia tees off at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore on Thursday, October, 4, 2018. AAC

SINGAPORE: Ervin Chang was the only bright spark on an otherwise disappointing moving day for the Malaysian representatives at the 10th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Saturday.

The 19-year-old took advantage of benign playing conditions early in the morning to trade five birdies against three bogeys for a two-under 68.

A one-under 209 overall saw the Liberty University junior improve to T25 at the New Tanjong tract of Sentosa Golf Club.

Debutant Bryan Teoh Wiyang never recovered from a costly blip on the par-four third hole, when he took six shots to reach the green, settling for a dismal 76 to slip down to T44.

The other Malaysian to make the halfway cut – Muhd Afif Mohd Razif – dropped six shots in a horror closing stretch, returning with a 77 to tumble to T57 on nine-over.

Chang was delighted with his performance, which included a near-eagle on the closing hole when his ball just hopped over the pin.

“Overall, it was a pretty solid round. Early in the round, I was struggling with my ball-striking at the start but recovered strongly, even if I conceded two consecutive bogeys on 12 and 13. But I turned around quite well, hit better approach shots that let to birdie opportunities and gained some shots.”

“My short game and putting has been sound all week, so it’s just a case of carrying the momentum into tomorrow’s final round and finishing the tournament in red numbers,” he added.

At the front, titleholder Lin Yuxin of China took a gallant step towards defending his crown with a sensational eight-under 62, which propelled him into a one-shot lead over Lloyd Jefferson Go (63) of the Philippines on 10-under 200.

Also in the hunt are Asian Games gold medallist Keita Nakajima of Japan, Thailand’s K.K. Limbhasut and 2015 champion Jin Cheng, who are among five players bunched up on eight-under.

The AAC champion earns invitations to next year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National and The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, provided he retains his amateur status. The runner(s)-up will gain a spot in The Open Qualifying Series.