Yuxin Lin.

Local hero prevails in thrilling playoff

China’s Yuxin Lin brought immense cheers to his home fans when he twice birdied the par-five 18th in a playoff to beat defending champion and world No.1 Takumi Kanaya and become the second two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

At Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, 2017 champion Lin (68) came to the par-five 18th hole at 11-under but hit his second shot from the fairway bunker into the water and made a bogey on the final hole of regulation.

Kanaya (69) 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 fellow AAC champion Hideki Matsuyama (2010-11) of Japan.

The duo both finished 10-under-par to enter the first playoff in the championship’s history. Both then 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.

Returning 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 from a longer range.

It was the perfect homecoming for Lin, who earned an invitation to this year’s Masters Tournament and The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.

After shifting his home base to Los Angeles, 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.

“It definitely means a lot to me, especially this week,” Lin said.

“Winning at home is certainly huge for me – and for China golf, as well. I’m just really honored 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,” he said.

“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 the world No.114, who clinched his first AAC title with an impressive birdie-eagle finish at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand.

“I didn’t really think about the win,” he said. “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 AAC at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Golf Club for another shot at the title.

“I came here with the sole aim of winning the tournament,” he said. “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 practise to become better.”

Lin started slowly in the final round, with a bogey on the par-four No.1, but the Beijing native quickly recovered with consecutive birdies, then unleashed three in a row from the sixth 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 (71) made the early charge with a hat-trick of birdies on the first, second and third, then added another on the fifth to grab the outright lead. A bogey on the sixth, however, followed by a double 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.

Also finishing at nine-under was Thailand’s Tanapat Pichaikool, who eagled the par-five 14th and the 18th for the best round of the day – a seven-under 65.

“I just started the day believing that I wasn’t out of the tournament and I gave it a good run,” the 19-year-old said.

“Slightly disappointed with my overall result after the first three days, but I just can’t complain about the way I finished.”

Five countries were represented in the top five on the final leaderboard, with Chinese Taipei’s Chun An Yu, Singapore’s James Leow and Japan’s Ren Yonezawa finishing in a tie for fifth at eight-under.

The AAC was created in 2009 by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A. The championship returns for the third time to mainland China, which hosted the inaugural AAC in 2009 at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, followed by the 2013 edition at Nanshan International Golf Club in Longkou City, Shandong.

The Championship is supported by five Proud Partners – AT&T, 3M, Mercedes-Benz, Delta and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.

The 12th edition of the AAC is set to unfold from October 29 to November 1, 2020, at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia.

AAC Proud Partners