The best amateur golfers in the Asia-Pacific region are busy accepting invitations to play in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, including 10 leading Australians, teenage phenom and former champion Guan Tianlang from China and South Korea’s 20-year-old Gunn Yang, who won the U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club last month. The 72-hole, stroke play competition will be played over the Composite Course at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club from 23-26 October 2014.
Yang, who spent time in Australia as a boy, now attends college at San Diego State University in California, although he recently announced he will take a year off his studies to play golf. He is familiar with the surrounds of Royal Melbourne, having played metropolitan pennant golf for Kingswood Golf Club and won the Riversdale Golf Club Championship as a teenager.
Yang commented on returning to play in Australia: “I had such great golfing memories back in Australia and especially one of my favourite golf courses, Royal Melbourne Golf Club. I am really excited to return back to my golf home ground and compete in the prestigious Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.”
His victory at the U.S. Amateur was a surprise to most – entering the Championship as 776th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). He beat collegiate All-American Seth Reeves and then World No. 1 Ollie Schniederjans along the way, then was victorious against Corey Conners in the final, 2 and 1.
Looking to reclaim his title is 16-year-old Chinese superstar Guan Tianlang, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2012 and played in the 2013 Masters at just 14 years of age, the youngest competitor in the history of the Tournament.
The Australian contingent of 10 that have confirmed to play the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship includes three members of the four-player team who won the 2013 Ten Nations Cup, an amateur event in South Africa. Among that trio is Ryan Ruffels, the reigning Australian junior champion, who won his age group at the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in the United States this year, and who is regarded as an excellent prospect at just 16 years of age.
Ryan Ruffels commented on qualifying for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship: “It’s pretty special to be playing a tournament here in Australia, where if you happen to play well for one week you’ve got a trip to the Masters secured. It’s a huge incentive. Augusta is a place you dream of playing as a kid growing up.”
Australian players confirmed to compete on home soil at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship include:
- CORY CRAWFORD, 22, is a product of the same junior college, Hills in Queensland, which spawned Jason Day. Originally from Tasmania, Crawford now plays out of Sanctuary Cove Golf Club in Queensland and has passed through the Queensland Academy of Sport golf program. He recently had his breakthrough win at the Malaysian Amateur Championship.
- GEOFF DRAKEFORD, 22, plays out of Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne and earned his place with a brilliant victory in the Porter Cup in the United States in July. Drakeford has represented Australia many times overseas and is a member of Golf Australia’s national elite squad. He is to turn professional soon.
- BEN ECCLES, 19, is from Torquay Golf Club on the Victorian surf coast, and has recently returned from a trip to play tournaments in Scotland. He won the New South Wales Amateur Championship last year.
- JARRYD FELTON, 19, is a West Australian and has already won a string of amateur titles having come out of Gosnells Golf Club on the outskirts of Perth. His wins include the Tasmanian Open and the New South Wales Amateur title.
- LUCAS HERBERT, 19, is a member of the Golf Australia national elite squad and plays out of Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne. He hails from Bendigo in northern Victoria. Herbert was third in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2013 and was a member of the Australian team that won the Ten Nations Cup team event in South Africa, posting a final-round 66 to secure the win.
- CURTIS LUCK, 18, is another product of the powerful Western Australian amateur team, coming out of Cottesloe Golf Club. Luck, twice W.A. junior champion, reached the final of the Australian Amateur this year and won his state amateur title.
- TAYLOR MACDONALD, 22, is also a member of Golf Australia’s national elite squad and comes from Redcliffe in Queensland. He won the Victorian Amateur title in 2012 and recently advanced as far as the top 16 at the Western Amateur in the United States. At No. 16 in the WAGR, he is the highest-ranked Australian male amateur in the world. MacDonald, who also played in the U.S. Amateur this year, is famed in his hometown for having carded a 57, 14-under-par, from the back tees at Redcliffe Golf Club several years ago.
- ANTHONY MURDACA, 19, has twice won the Australian Boys’ Amateur title, in 2010 and 2013. When he won his second national amateur title he matched a feat previously achieved by Adam Scott, his golfing hero. Murdaca hails from Grange Golf Club in South Australia and is a member of Golf Australia’s national elite squad.
- RYAN RUFFELS, 16, is an astonishing talent, having already won the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in his age group, the Riversdale Cup and the Australian Junior Amateur title this year. Ruffels, the son of well-known Australian tennis professional Ray Ruffels, grew up in Florida before moving to Australia and plays out of Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne. He finished T-24 in the Australian Open last year at just 15, and is expected to have a big future in the game.
- TODD SINNOTT, 20, was the hero of Victoria’s win in the Interstate Teams matches this year at Federal Golf Club in Canberra, winning the last match to clinch the title. A product of the Victorian Institute of Sport golf program and a member at Metropolitan Golf Club, he has previously won the Portsea Amateur, The Dunes Medal and the Victorian Boys’ title.
Established in 2009 by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), Masters Tournament and The R&A, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship will host a field of 120 of the highest-ranked players descend on Melbourne to experience the premier amateur golf competition in the region.
The champion will receive an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament in April 2015 and an exemption into The Amateur Championship, which is conducted by The R&A. In addition, along with the runner-up, places in The Open Qualifying Series are available, with the opportunity to qualify for The Open Championship at St Andrews in 2015.