Keita Nakajima from Japan and Yuxin Lin from China are two of the most compelling stories of this year’s event. Nakajima will enter the championship as the No. 1 reigning player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) while two-time AAC champion Lin surpasses 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (2010, 11) and becomes the first player to do it manages to win the title three times.
However, as the region seeks to get out of the COVID-19 pandemic that has long prevented many players from competing, the field will be hungry to make a name for itself in the Asia-Pacific regionâs premier amateur championship. And then there is the great motivation – a dream invitation to the 2022 Masters and the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews.
This is followed by five players who will certainly have a say in this year’s championship.
TO THE RIGHT: Two-time defending champion Yuxin Lin hopes to surpass the feat of Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who won the tournament twice. PHOTO: Delivered.
The 21-year-old (main picture) is next to Matsuyama, the Japanese Takumi Kanaya and the Western Australian Curtis Luck only the fourth active WAGR No.1 player to compete in the AAC. He became the top ranked amateur in the world when Kanaya – his compatriot, best friend, and 2018 AAC champion – turned pro.
The Tokyo-based student at Nippon Sport Science University is making his fourth appearance in the championship and plans to finish better than his tie for second place in 2018. With amateur golf stalling in the region, it has relied on playing against the pros on the Japan Golf Tour since early 2020, winning once at the Panasonic Open, finishing in the top 10 three times and recording two top 20 Placements.
Known for his fearless approach to the golf course, Nakajima decided to hit his driver on every par-4 and par-5 hole in a few tournaments.
Earlier this year, the Mark McCormack medal winner said his big goals for 2021 are to win a professional golf tournament as an amateur and win the Asia Pacific amateur title, following in the footsteps of Hideki Matsuyama and Kanaya. He ticked the first box by winning the Panasonic Open as he was only the fifth amateur to win an event in the history of this professional tour. He will be excited to try to complete the second feat on Dubai Creek.
The youngest form of the 21-year-old University of New Mexico senior studying communication science sends a clear message to fans that the AAC this year is much more than a fight between Nakajima and Lin.
In five events between May and July of this year, Choi won the New Mexico-West Texas Amateur and Maridoe Amateur Championship and finished second in the Mountain West Conference Individual Championship and the Pacific Coast Amateur, and made it to the playoffs in both events. At his last two events, the Wolf Pack Classic and the William H. Tucker in Albuquerque, he finished second in a tie.
This is Choi’s first appearance in the AAC and he will try to end a long drought for his country. If he makes it to the podium on Saturday, Choi will be the third Korean champion after Han Chang-Won in the 2009 First Edition and Lee Chang-Woo in 2013.
Thailand’s Puwit Anupansuebsai will try to win the first AAC crown for his country. PHOTO: Delivered.
The defending champion – winners in Wellington 2017 and Shanghai 2019 – will not only try to keep his crown and become only the second player to be repeated as a champion in AAC history after Hideki Matsuyama, he will also try to become the Japanese legend and win the AAC title for the third time.
This is Lin’s fifth start in the championship, and after sharing 21st place on his debut in South Korea (2016), his worst result was a tie ninth place in Singapore in 2018.
With the Beijing-born Lins’ ability to get the most out of his game at AAC, the University of Florida southpaw will always be a pre-championship favorite.
Although Thailand has produced several professional players who have made a name for themselves on the world stage, one more player has yet to win the trophy at the AAC. One of the main reasons for this is that Thai players become professionals from a very young age.
Not anupansuebsai, however. The 22-year-old, a senior at San Diego State University, embarked on a full college career and is in a prime position to include Thailand in the championship annals.
As a two-time member of the international team in the Arnold Palmer Cup, he won all three of his games in 2021. On a six-week college golf course from April to May of this year, he won twice and finished second in two more starts.
Anupansuebsai is six feet tall and has a punch in his slender body, but make no mistake – he’s ready to reach great heights.
While the 17 year old Indian may not rank as highly as some of his peers, he has a unique advantage over the field – born and raised in Dubai, Gupta has the best local knowledge of how to take the Dubai Creek course Golf & Yacht Club.
Gupta won the Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship last December, earning him a place in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour. He also took part in the US Junior Amateur that year and reached the round of 16.
Interestingly, Gupta’s twin sister Natalii has been nominated by the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) to play under the flag of the United Arab Emirates in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, which will be held in Abu Dhabi the week after the AAC.
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