October 28, 2017: Lin Yuxin doesn’t bat an eyelid when asked about his chances of becoming China’s third winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, following Guan Tianlang in 2012 and Jin Cheng in 2015.
In fact, the strongly built big hitter – who only turned 17 on October 12 – doesn’t seem fazed by much, even though this year the winner in New Zealand will earn a spot in the Masters Tournament and, for the first time, The Open. Lin almost behaves like it’s in his plans.
“It would be an honor to win this event and play the Masters and The Open,” said Lin who is coached by US-based Boyd Summerhays. “I’ll play aggressively and try to win this thing.”
Lin is playing his second AAC, having tied for 21st in Korea last year, but arrived at Royal Wellington Golf Club as one of the lesser-known members of the China team – Jin, Guan, Andy Zhang and Carl Yuan all play college golf in the US. Aden Ye Wocheng, who turned 17 last month, is based in Orlando.
However, if anyone was surprised when Lin eagled his closing hole at the par-four ninth by driving over 360 yards and holing out from 82 yards to post the clubhouse lead on Friday afternoon, China’s youngest player in the field wasn’t among them.
“I was actually pretty calm because last week I had an albatross and an eagle in Macau,” deadpanned Lin, who was also asked if he’d get excited if he was still among the leaders after 54 holes. “Probably not very excited. I don’t think so.” There were laughs – and open mouths.
Born, raised and based in Beijing, Lin has the calm, self-assured demeanor of a seasoned touring pro and is now frequently competing in such company – and proving increasingly comfortable.
He’s currently in the middle of a five-week stretch of tournaments that includes events on the European Challenge Tour, Asian Tour and PGA TOUR China, and concludes with the biennial Nomura Cup amateur team event.
Five weeks through China, Macau, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Malaysia with barely a day’s rest is hard work for most, never mind a teen being home schooled. Last month he made his Japan Golf Tour debut and in late November he will play with the likes of Jordan Spieth in the Australian Open for a second time.
And he’s not just gaining exposure and experience. He’s frequently competing on level terms and even attacking leaderboards on occasion.
In April, he eagled a par-four in the European Tour’s Shenzhen International and was the only amateur to make the cut, dropping to a share of 39th, two strokes behind two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, after closing with three bogeys.
On the European Challenge Tour two weeks ago, he had an eagle in the final round of Hainan Open and eventually finished seventh, having been one off the lead on the back nine before a triple bogey on 13 halted his run.
Last week he eagled a par-four in the second round of the Asian Tour’s Macau Open, finishing the final day with an albatross on 18 by holing out with a 248-yard five-iron.
“I was also playing well in Hainan. I was striking it well, putting it pretty well and everything was on track. I was one back off the lead before the triple on 13 and a bogey two holes later to drop four shots,” Lin said.
“I had a good week in Macau and had an albatross in the final round.”
Prodigious length and talent mean an eagle is like water off a duck’s back to Lin, who is a charming mix of calm and quirky. For every eagle, there’s a triple bogey lurking around the corner.
Cool, collected and confident on the course and in interviews, he speaks English with a slight American accent. He travels several times a year to the US but has always lived in Beijing, where he practices and works with the Scottsdale-based Summerhays via video lessons.
In other ways, he’s very much a typical teenager, travelling everywhere with his mother and revealing a playful side when he thinks the cameras aren’t trained on him. Of the two 17-year-olds in the China team this week, it’s Lin who has the reputation as ‘the kid’.
But they’re all growing up fast. Ye, who missed the cut in Wellington, has verbally committed to join the University of Florida – where Zhang is playing for the ‘Gators’ – in 2018.
Lin is in the penultimate year of his unusual school life and has committed to the University of Southern California – where Jin is currently among the ‘Trojans’ – from 2019.
Lin may seem young, but he’s in good company. Guan was only 14 when he won the AAC and Jin just 17. And even if he doesn’t lift the trophy on Sunday, there’s always next year and beyond. Just don’t be surprised if it happens. He won’t be.