October 5, 2016: New Zealand’s Eisenhower Trophy representatives Nick Voke (21), Luke Toomey (23) and Ryan Chisnall (21) are among the players looking to upset the established order at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which has been dominated by four nations since its inauguration in 2009.
South Korea (2009, 2013), Japan (2010, 2011) and China (2012, 2016) have each produced two champions, while Australia’s Antonio Murdaca won at home in 2014.
This week the Australian trio who romped to victory in the World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico two weeks ago head a powerful six-strong team in Incheon. Hosts South Korea boast 10 players including 2014 US Amateur Champion Yang Gunn and China field seven headed by defending champion Jin Cheng.
Voke, though, believes there’s a good chance for a player from a ‘new’ nation to get his hands on the prestigious trophy.
New Zealand finished sixth in the Eisenhower Trophy – second among APGC nations – and Voke believes he and his teammates have a solid chance over the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club’s 7,062-yard layout.
“There’s definitely the possibility of a new nation winning this year. I was talking with Luke about how winning the tournament and getting the invitations to the Masters and Open qualifying used to be more of a fantasy than anything else. I think this year is the first time it’s more of a possibility than a fantasy for us,” said Voke, who finished 20th in the Eisenhower Trophy individual standings, a stroke behind Toomey.
“It also helps that three of us were together in Mexico recently and are in pretty good form. It’s probably even more fun here because there’s six of us, all wearing the same uniforms each day. Although it’s an individual competition there’s still a team feel to it and we wish everyone on the team success so I’m sure you’ll see a couple of us on the leaderboard.”
As he prepares for his third Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, having finished 19th last year and 33rd in 2013, Voke concedes that one nation does stand out as the team to beat.
“Australia are the favourites, as much as I hate to admit it! They’ve got a really strong team and the blokes have a lot of international experience,” said Voke, now in his fourth and final year at Iowa State University.
“Cam [Davis] and Curtis [Luck] just finished one-two at the Eisenhower Trophy and Curtis is the US Amateur champion. Although they’re the favourites, I think there are a lot of guys this week with the potential to compete – including myself.”
Lloyd Jefferson Go, the Philippines’ top-ranked amateur, is another with the “potential to compete”, having tied for eighth in Hong Kong last year. Based in New Jersey, the 21-year-old Seton Hall University senior enters his fourth championship as the reigning Big East Player of the Year and individual champion.
“I’m feeling pretty good about my form coming into this. I’ve been playing pretty well the past couple of years,” said Cebu-born Go, who also played in South Korea last year, finishing seventh at the World University Games in Gwangju.
“I think everyone has a chance to win. I guess the Australians would be the favourites because they just won the World Amateur but if anyone from any country plays well they can win.”
Kevin Yu Chun-an, Chinese Taipei’s top-ranked amateur, is also one to watch as he embarks on his freshman year at Arizona State University. Now 18, Yu finished joint fourth in Hong Kong last year, when he also won the AJGA’s Junior Players Championship and the Western Junior Championship.
KK Limbhasut, Thailand’s top-ranked amateur, has been a standout player at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) since 2014 and heads a strong six-man team that includes Sangchai Keawcharoen and Atiruj Winaicharoenchai, seventh and 12th respectively last year.