The best amateur golfers from Australia will travel to Nanshan International Golf Club in China for the fifth-annual Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC), from 24-27 October, as they attempt to bring the coveted title to their homeland for the very first time.
One of the world’s premier amateur golf tournaments, the AAC is organized by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A and features players from the 37 APGC member countries and organizations. The AAC’s winner is rewarded with an invitation to the Masters Tournament the following year and, along with the runner(s)-up, a place at International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship.
Led by Brady Watt and Oliver Goss, currently ranked sixth and seventh in the World Amateur Golf Ranking respectively, Australia will field one of its most talented groups of players ever assembled at the AAC this year. The 23-year-old Watt has strung together some solid performances as of late including a win at the Ten Nations Cup and a runner-up finish at the Australian Master of Amateurs Championship.
The US-based Goss is no stranger to the AAC, having competed in the tournament last year. The 19-year-old finished third 12 months ago, behind Chinese sensation Guan Tianlang and Pan Cheng-tsung of Chinese Taipei, both of whom will also return to the AAC in China.
Goss is already assured of a place at next year’s Masters Tournament after his runner-up finish at the US Amateur Championship last month. He will become the first AAC competitor to have already secured an invitation to the Masters before the event begins.
An Australian amateur was guaranteed representation in the US Amateur final and the Masters when Goss played Watt in the semi-final. Goss would overcome his good friend by a two-hole margin, though it did not keep Watt from supporting him as his caddie for the final match. In the end, Goss was not able to match the feats of fellow countrymen Nick Flanagan and three-time champion Walter J. Travis in winning the US Amateur title, succumbing 4-and-3 to the current World No. 1-ranked amateur, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England.
Goss, who has also received an invite to play the US Open thanks to his US Amateur performance, is excited to be challenging for the AAC title once more:
“I had a great run last year in Thailand and was off the pace by three strokes. This time, the likes of Guan will be even harder to beat as he will have home support, but I have been playing well and am looking forward to the challenge. I am happy with where my game is at right now and I was close at the US Amateur last month. I believe I have a genuine chance to come out on top in China.”
Joining Watt and Goss in Nanshan International Golf Club will be Daniel Hoeve, Taylor James MacDonald, Viraat Badhwar and Lucas Herbert, who are all in the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Hoeve has been particularly impressive this year having won the 2013 Golf SA Amateur Classic and South Australia Amateur Classic. MacDonald finished ninth in the U.S. Western Amateur at The Alotian Club and made the cut in both the Victoria Open and the Queensland PGA Championship this year.
India-born Queensland teenager, Viraat Badhwar, came from six shots down to win the 2013 Australian Master of the Amateurs Championship at Royal Melbourne, the venue for the 2014 AAC. The 17-year-old overcame Watt, who had led from day one, to become the youngest winner in the 15-year history of the tournament. In recognition of his fine performance, Badhwar was presented this past May with a Byron Nelson International Junior Golfer Award, along with Guan.
Rounding off the Aussie contingent is 17-year-old Lucas Herbert. Herbert has enjoyed a stellar year finishing runner-up in his first professional event, the Heritage Classic, on the Australian Tour. He then led Australia’s junior team to victory in the Ten Nations Cup in South Africa and followed up with a second place finish at the Callaway Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Herbert is eagerly anticipating the AAC and his chance to earn an invitation to the Masters:
“You always think the Masters seems so far away, but to get an invitation into an event like this feels like four good rounds away,” Herbert said. “But in saying that I’m a long way off winning it. I can’t just go over there expecting it. I have got to do a lot of hard work. But it is pretty unreal when you talk about it like that.”
Collectively, Australia, with this strength and depth, looks set to continue its tradition of fine performances at the AAC. Last year, five Australians finished in the top 11.
The 2013 AAC television broadcast will be distributed across 150 countries. On Fox Sports, Australian golf fans can tune in to live coverage of the first and second round (24 and 25 October, respectively) between 1430 and 1630 and from 1600 to 1800 for the third and final rounds (26 and 27 October, respectively) (all times UTC/GMT +8 hours).
Each year, invitations for the championship are sent to the leading players from the APGC-member countries. Each country is automatically provided with two positions, which are to be filled by their highest-ranked players from the WAGR. If there is only one or no players from a member country in the rankings, they are able to nominate one or two players accordingly provided the player/s have a handicap of 5.4 or less.
The remainder of the field is filled by taking the next highest-ranked players from the WAGR with the maximum number of players allowed from a country being six. The only exception is for the host country which is allowed to nominate an additional four players.