With defending champion Harrison Crowe of Australia deciding to join the professional ranks, a new champion is set to be crowned after Sunday’s final round.
Several exciting contenders are waiting to get their name inscribed on the trophy alongside Crowe and former World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) number ones Hideki Matsuyama, Takumi Kanaya and Keita Nakajima (all Japan), and Australia’s Curtis Luck.
As of September 20, the field includes 12 players ranked inside the top-110 of WAGR.
Here is a look at five leading players who should be in contention this year…
Country – Japan; Age – 22; WAGR – No. 13
The Japanese national team player will aim to continue the fine tradition of his country at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and aim to become the fourth player from the Land of the Rising Sun to wear the crown.
In November last year, the final-year student at Nihon University helped Japan win the Nomura Cup, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Team Championship, and was the individual champion as well. He also showed his class in the 2022 Japan Open, considered by many as one of the toughest tests in golf, by finishing third and beating several established stars. Sugiura has now got his sights trained on the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship title.
Sugiura is in fine form ahead of his trip to Melbourne, having won a top-tier collegiate tournament in Japan recently. The week before that, he became only the eighth amateur to win a tournament (Dunlop Phoenix Tournament Challenge) on the Abema Tour, the development series of the Japan Golf Tour.
Winner of the Ryo Ishikawa Junior Championship twice, Sugiura considers the ‘Bashful Prince’ his golfing hero. This will be his second Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, having finished tied 28th in his maiden appearance in Dubai in the 2021 edition.
Country – China; Age – 18; WAGR – No. 20
The talented Chinese star first took part in the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur in Shanghai as a 15-year-old and has improved with every appearance since.
In July last year, the tall Arizona State University freshman became the first male player from China to win a USGA championship when he triumphed in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes, beating Caleb Surratt 3&2 in the final, earning a spot in the 2023 U.S. Open.
He missed the cut at Los Angeles Country Club, but in the build-up to the second major of the season, he played in six DP World Tour and Asian Tour professional events and made it to the weekend every time. His best finish was a tie for 23rd place at the Singapore Classic.
Having already experienced the U.S. Open, a trip to the Masters and The Open will be his next target at Royal Melbourne.
Country – New Zealand; Age – 22; WAGR – No. 32
Just going by his form this year, the New Zealand star would be one of the favorites going into the Championship. Not only did he win the Australian Men’s Amateur earlier in the season by two shots over a quality field, he also went to the other side of the world to Dayton, Ohio, and won the Western Amateur Championship, one of the oldest amateur championships in the world.
That’s not all. Brother of Ladies European Tour player Momoko, Kobori has extra motivation too. He won the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School earlier this year and can turn pro anytime he wants. However, he has held back because he wants to give one last shot to the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and become the first winner from New Zealand. If he wins in Melbourne, he will hold on to his amateur status and play next year’s Masters and the Open Championship. If not, he will join the professional rank immediately.