SHANGHAI – The world’s No. 1-ranked men’s amateur, Takumi Kanaya of Japan, has his sights set on defending his title at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC).
The 11th edition of the region’s premier amateur championship will be played 26-29 September at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China.
Last year at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, Kanaya earned his first win with four consecutive subpar rounds, including a 64 and 65 over the weekend. That gave him a two-stroke victory over India’s Rayhan Thomas and his countryman Keita Nakajima.
Kanaya, who played in the Masters Tournament and The Open at Royal Portrush this year as the AAC champion, is now hoping to become only the second player in the history of the championship to successfully defend his title. The first to do so was Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who won in 2010 and 2011 and has served as an inspiration to Kanaya.
“I’m looking forward to playing again in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Shanghai, and I feel I am ready to win the championship again,” said Kanaya, who is studying at Tohoku Fukushi University, the same programme which was attended by Matsuyama.
“I think I am playing well and will be confident of winning consecutive titles. That way, I can get slightly closer to what he (Matsuyama) has achieved in his career.”
The 21-year-old said he is a better player now than he was when he triumphed last year and revealed an interesting strategy of working harder on his strengths.
“This last year, I spent time consciously developing my strengths,” said Kanaya, who finished second in the individual standings of the World Amateur Team Championships in 2018 and reached the round of 32 in the U.S. Amateur Championship this year.
“I’m good at putting, so I keep practicing to become even better and keep up with others who may hit the ball longer than me.”
Kanaya made the cut in his Masters debut and finished tied for the 58th place at five-over-par 293. That included a sensational four-under-par 68 in Saturday’s third round, the lowest round by an amateur at the 2019 tournament, followed by a disappointing 78 on Sunday. At The Open, he was well within the cutline, but after a string of three bogeys in his last five holes amid tough weather conditions, he missed the weekend action by one stroke.
“The whole season has been amazing. It’s like a dream-come-true for me. I was so impressed to be able to play in places I have always admired since I was a little kid,” said Kanaya, who shot into prominence when he finished runner-up in the 2017 Japan Open as an 18-year-old.
“I found many problems on the golf course, but the whole experience was also very enjoyable. I am confident that I will overcome these problems in the future and have better results in these tournaments.
“At the Masters, I learned the importance of playing without giving up. The result at Augusta National has given me a lot of confidence.”
Created in 2009 by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, the AAC will stage its 11th edition on the same course that annually hosts the World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions.
A field of 120 players from 40 Asia Pacific nations is expected to compete in the championship, which returns to China for the third time. The country hosted the inaugural AAC in 2009 at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, followed by the 2013 edition at Nanshan International Golf Club in Longkou City, Shandong.
Apart from Kanaya, the championship also features Australia’s David Micheluzzi, currently ranked fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), world No. 10 Blake Windred (Australia) and world No. 11 Chun An Yu (Chinese Taipei).
The champion in Shanghai will earn an invitation to the 2020 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and a place in The 149th Open at Royal St George’s. The runner(s)-up will secure a position in The Open Qualifying Series.
China’s challenge for the title will be spearheaded by Lin Yuxin, winner of the 2017 AAC at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand, where he led an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish for his country. As the host nation, China will have the largest contingent with 10 players in the championship.
Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold 26-29 September at Sheshan International Golf Club. Entry to the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is free of charge.