The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship starts in Thailand

MatsuyamaSome of the world’s leading amateur golfers will be competing in the fourth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Chonburi, Thailand this week.

Hideki Matsuyama will be bidding for his third consecutive victory in the championship but will face stiff competition from a strong field including the likes of his compatriot and reigning Japan Junior champion Kenta Konishi, Pan Cheng-tsung, of Chinese Taipei who is Asia’s second-highest ranked amateur, Cameron Smith from Australia, Khalin Joshi and Senapaa Chikkarangappa from India, and Sri Lanka’s Nadaraja Thangaraja.

The championship, formerly known as the Asian Amateur, runs from today until Sunday at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand. It will feature up to 120 players from the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation’s (APGC) 36 member associations. Nations are offered between two to six invitations depending on their players’ WAGR ranking, while Thailand can have an additional four players as the host. The Tournament Ambassador is Thai star Thongchai Jaidee.

The annual event is organised by the APGC, the Masters Tournament and The R&A, and offers the winner an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. The champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship.

AmataMatsuyama, Asia’s highest ranked player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), won the championship in Japan in 2010 and in Singapore last year which earned him invitations to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, where, in 2011, he won the Silver Cup as low amateur. The 20 year-old also made the cut in his second appearance in April and finished tied for 54th. Matsuyama competed in International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship at Amata Spring in early March and came close to qualifying for Royal Lytham & St Annes.

“I have won the championship for the past two years and will do my best to win a third time, but I think that all my teammates will also have a good chance of doing well if they play their best,” he said. “I know they will be really impressed by the event and its organisation.” 

Konishi, was the 2010 Junior Open champion at Lundin Links in Scotland and won the individual and team titles at the Asian Junior Team Championship in Malaysia in January. Pan is currently ranked 12th in the WAGR and was a quarter finalist in this year’s US Amateur. He qualified for the US Open last year and will be making his debut in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. 

Smith will be hoping to build on his fourth place finish in last year’s event in Singapore. He was Australia’s top-ranked junior in 2009 and 2010 and last year won the Australian Men’s Stroke Play Championship and the Australian Boys’ Amateur Championship. He was also the medallist at the Australian Amateur Championship in January after winning the stroke play stages.

KonishiJoshi is the man in form having won several events this year including last month’s Southern India Open Amateur, the Western India Amateur, the Inter State Championship and the Samarvir Sahi Championship. Chikkarangappa has been runner-up to Joshi on several occasions this year and finished 26th in the Indian Open. He won last month’s Tamilnadu Amateur Open and was India’s dominant amateur last year when he won the East India, Southern India and Western India championships. Thangaraja could also be a strong contender at Amata Spring having won Sri Lanka’s Open Amateur Men’s Golf Championship last month to add to his victory in the Pakistan National Amateur Championship in April.

Hosts Thailand will have a ten-strong contingent in the field led by Poom Saksansin, who won the Pattaya Open in May, and Natipong ‘James’ Srithong, who was the runner-up in the Putra Cup in August.

The championship will be screened in more than 150 countries making it the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament.

The organisers announced that next year’s championship will be held at Nanshan International Golf Club in China before the event moves to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia in 2014.

For live scoring from the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship please click here.