Malaysian quintet set for Sentosa showdown

Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

KUALA LUMPUR: Ervin Chang will look to make up for his Asian Games disappointment when he headlines the Malaysian challenge at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship this week.

The elite meet will celebrate its 10th anniversary in style when a field featuring the top men’s amateur golf talent throughout Asia and Australasia will gather in Singapore.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, created by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, will be played at the New Tanjong course at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore from October 4-7.

The champion’s perks include an invitation to The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and a place in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019. The runner(s)-up will gain a spot in The Open Qualifying Series.

Joining Chang are UCLA freshman Bryan Teoh Wiyang and University of Toledo’s Muhd Afif Mohd Fathi, who are making their championship debuts and seasoned campaigners Chan Tuck Soon and Muhd Afif Mohd Razif, who are making a record eighth and seventh appearances respectively.

Speaking from Virginia, the Liberty University junior expressed his excitement on making a return to the championship, three years after his last appearance in 2015.

“This is a tournament I really want to play and I’m delighted that my coach Jeff Thomas has encouraged me to make the trip. I missed the cut in both my appearances (Melbourne 2014 & Hong Kong 2015) but the experience of playing at that level definitely helped me grow as an amateur.

“I was looking good for a top-ten finish at the Asian Games in Jakarta but a poor final day let me down. I’m feeling solid about my game at the moment and hopefully, I can play well and contend,” added Chang, who has enjoyed a good run in 2018, winning his maiden NCAA title at the Sea Best Invitational in February before running away with the Singapore Amateur Open in June.

The new Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore

A full field of 120 players has qualified for the tournament, which is being held in Singapore for the second time (the 2011 event at Singapore Island Country Club was won by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama). These players will represent 40 of the Asia Pacific nations that are part of the APGC.

As many as 17 players in the field fall within the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), led by China’s defending champion Lin Yuxin. Australia’s world number 11 Minwoo Lee – the younger brother to LPGA star Minjee Lee – is the highest-ranked player in the region. He finished tied for third at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand last year.

Also, in the field are China’s Andy Zhang – the top ranked Asian in the field, world number 45 Rayhan Thomas, the highest-ranked player from the Indian subcontinent and 2018 Asian Games individual gold medalist Keita Nakajima of Japan.

Founded in 2009 with the specific vision of growing the game in the region and creating new heroes, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) has delivered on both counts within a short span of nine years.

“We will celebrate a decade of hosting the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship this year and the quality of the field that we have in Singapore just shows how important this tournament has become for the region,” APGC chairman Kei Muratsu.

“The original idea of the tournament was to create heroes who would make the region proud on the world stage, and we have done that each year with exceptional champions. I am sure our Singapore champion will carry on this tradition.”

The 72-hole stroke play event at Sentosa promises to be a real spectacle of golf in a special year for the championship, which has been a springboard for players such as two-time champion Matsuyama (2010 and 2011), China’s Guan Tianlang (winner in 2012 who went on to become the youngest player ever to make the cut at the 2013 Masters) and the promising Australian Curtis Luck (2016).