Gregory Foo is hoping good form, home comforts and strong motivation will help him become the first Singaporean winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) next month.
At No. 111 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Foo is the highest-ranked player in the field from Singapore, which hosts the 10th edition of the region’s premier amateur golf event at Sentosa Golf Club’s New Tanjong course from October 4-7.
The 25-year-old leads a strong contingent of six players from the host nation. The other five are Joshua Ho, Wee Jin Low, Abdul Hadi, Lucius Toh and Zhi Peng Donovan Lee.
At the end of four days of competition against 120 of the finest amateur players from 39 Asia-Pacific countries, lies one of the greatest prizes in amateur golf for the champion – a dream invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and a place in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019, provided he retains his amateur status. The runner(s)-up will gain a spot in The Open Qualifying Series.
Known as ‘Foo Fighter’ to his friends – a reference to the American rock band and his own tenacity on the golf course – Foo goes into the championship in top form, having finished tied for the eighth place in the individual leaderboard of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and tied for 19th in the World Amateur Team Championships in Dublin earlier this month.
“I am feeling great. I am feeling very confident. This is the best that I have been playing this year. So, I am very excited for the AAC and just can’t wait to tee it up,” said the man who has featured in seven out of nine editions, only missing out on 2012 and 2013 because of his national military service commitment.
“I have prepared well for it….Now that I am back here and do not have any events before the AAC, I am going to spend as much time as possible at the New Tanjong Course and do some quality work so that I feel fully prepared by the time the competition comes.”
In his seven appearances in the AAC, Foo’s best result is a tied for 15th in Korea in 2016, and he also holds the record for the lowest round by a Singaporean – a six-under-par 64 in the opening round in 2015 at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club in Hong Kong.
However, Foo is expecting even better results from himself and the other local boys.
“Most of us are very confident and excited to play in front of family and friends here in Singapore,” said Foo, who graduated in sports science and management from Nanyang Technological University earlier this year.
“The confidence also comes from the fact that we have played the course several times and we are familiar with what we see visually and familiar with the different conditions that can pan out because of the weather.
“Having said that, we are not taking the ‘home conditions’ for granted because the quality of the players in the field is such that they can quickly adapt to different conditions. I think we all will just be a little more comfortable knowing what to expect from the golf course and seeing so many familiar faces around us.”
Foo plans to turn professional toward the end of the year and will take part in the Asian Tour Qualifying School.
“I am very motivated to end my amateur career on a high note. I cannot think of a better way than to play the AAC as my last tournament here in Singapore,” he added.
“If I play well and win, it would be a dream to play at the Masters and at The Open. But even if things don’t go my way, I definitely plan to turn professional later this year and I have no regrets. The AAC is such a fantastic event that I will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to play it eight times.”
If Foo manages to get his dream win, he’d become only the third player in the history of the championship to win on home soil. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama won at Kasumigaseki Country Club on the outskirts of Tokyo in 2011, while Australia’s Antonio Murdaca triumphed in 2014 at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Aspiring golf nation
On Singapore’s chances in the AAC, and the future of amateur golf there without his presence, Foo expressed confidence that his other team members, and aspiring golfers in the island nation, will only get better.
“The AAC has done so much for the game in the Asia-Pacific region. It has given amateurs like me and the young juniors something to dream about, something to aspire towards. Having it here in Singapore will have a positive impact on the game for years to come,” said Foo.
He continued, “I hope this year’s event creates more awareness about the game and that people come out to watch and try to learn the game.”
The 72-hole stroke play event at Sentosa promises to be a real festival 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 (2012 winner who went on to become the youngest ever to make the cut at the Masters) and the promising Australian Curtis Luck (2016).
Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold at Sentosa Golf Club. Entry to the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is free of charge.
The championship is supported by six Proud Partners –3M, AT&T, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, UPS and Delta – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.