Asian Amateur Champion leads Japanese challenge at Asian Games

Hideki MatsuyamaRecently-crowned Asian Amateur Champion Hideki Matsuyama is poised to lead a strong Japanese contingent in the Asian Games golf tournament, which begins tomorrow at Guangzhou’s Dragon Lake Golf Club in China. Matsuyama, who will become the first Japanese amateur to play in the Masters Tournament, next April, is joined by Satoshi Kodaira, who finished tied-22nd at the Asian Amateur; Masahiro Kawamura, who finished tied-ninth; and the 2010 Junior Open Champion Kenta Konishi.

18-year-old Matsuyama made sure of an invitation to Augusta National, as well as a place in International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship, with a dominating five-stroke victory at Japan’s Kasumigaseki Country Club in October. He then underlined his potential with a third-place finish in the professional Japan Open, in the process outperforming the likes of Ryo Ishikawa and Shingo Katayama.

The Asian Games is the pinnacle for elite amateur golf in Asia and showcases the most talented golfers from across the region.
Dominic Wall: R&A Director Asia/Pacific

Konishi was similarly dominant at Lundin Golf Club, near St Andrews, at the Junior Open in July, winning by four shots. But while Matsuyama, Konishi and Japan are arguably favourites, they are likely to find themselves confronted with a strong Korean challenge headed by Park Il-hwan and Lee Kyung-hoon.Park Il-hwan

Korea swept the board in Doha at the last Asian Games, taking home an unprecedented four gold medals across the men’s and ladies’ competitions. And the leading pair of Park and Lee, who finished tied-seventh and tied-fourth respectively at the Asian Amateur, will be striving to make sure that Korea’s men repeat that performance.

Korea’s women look strong favourites to win gold once again having recently triumphed at the World Amateur Team Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The USA finished in a distant second place, 17 strokes back.

South Korea has won eight golfing golds against Japan’s seven, since the sport made its Asian Games debut in 1982 in New Delhi. The women's game was included in 1990.

This year, 113 golfers – 78 men from 20 National Olympic Councils and 32 women from 11 National Olympic Councils – are taking part in the golf event, an Asian Games record. Individual golds will be determined by four rounds of stroke play and team golds will be decided by cumulative scores. Korea celebrate their Espirito Santo Trophy victory.In the men’s event, the best three of four stroke play scores will count towards the team score, while in the women’s event, the best two from three will contribute.

"The Asian Games is the pinnacle for elite amateur golf in Asia and showcases the most talented golfers from across the region. It also provides an important platform for the development of the sport with countries such as Afghanistan competing in an international golf tournament for the first time,” explained The R&A’s Director – Asia/Pacific, Dominic Wall, who, as the Technical Delegate, has been instrumental in the planning of the golf event over the past two years.

"The Dragon Lake Golf Course is in excellent condition and we anticipate that some great golf will be played and no doubt the best will rise to the top."

Tickets to watch golf at the Asian Games have sold out; meaning that between three and five thousand spectators per day will be making their way to Dragon Lake to watch Asia’s elite go for gold.