BANGKOK –Two-time defending champion Hideki Matsuyama and reigning Japan Junior champion Kenta Konishi are among five Japanese players who will compete in this week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which will be held from November 1-4 at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand.
Compatriots Ryutaro Kato, Mikumu Horikawa and Taihei Sato will compete in the championship for the first time.
The 20-year-old Matsuyama, Asia’s No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), will attempt to win a third consecutive title after victories in Japan in 2010 and in Singapore last year, which earned him successive invitations to the Masters Tournament, where he made the cut on both occasions.
Konishi, currently Asia’s No. 9, also competed in the previous two Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships, finishing 12th in Japan and joint 38th in Singapore. The 18-year-old, winner of the 2010 Junior Open Championship in Scotland, began this year by winning the individual and team titles at the Asian Junior Team Championship in Malaysia in January.
In July, Konishi reached the semi-finals of the Japan Amateur Golf Championship and then won the following month’s Japan Junior by four strokes, two years after first winning the title. Matsuyama and Konishi were their country’s top two performers in the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey earlier this month.
Their compatriots, all 19-year-old, are also in good form and capable of challenging for the title in Thailand. Horikawa of Nihon University won the Kanto Amateur Championship in June and finished runner-up in last month’s Topy Cup Japan-US Intercollegiate Championship.
Kato won last year’s Japan Junior and finished third in this year’s Japan Collegiate Championship in August. Sato won last year’s Taiwan Amateur Championship and represented Asia Pacific in this year’s Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy.
Matsuyama is keen to play a leader’s role in the fourth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, as three of his compatriots make their event debut.
“It’s always a proud moment when you’re representing your country and I’m really looking forward to competing for the third time at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and playing in Thailand with my compatriots,” said Matsuyama, who won the Taiheiyo Masters on the professional Japan Golf Tour last November and recently finished seventh in the Japan Open.
“Kenta Konishi and I have both competed in the last two championships, in Japan and Singapore, so we’ll help Ryutaro Kato, Taihei Sato and Mikumu Horikawa as they take part for the first time.”
Matsuyama’s two championship titles earned him invitations to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, where in 2011 he won the Silver Cup as low amateur. During his second appearance this past April, he again made the cut and finished tied for 54th.
The Tohoku Fukushi University student could benefit from some valuable course experience. Matsuyama competed in International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship at Amata Spring in early March, having earned the invitation through last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship win, and came close to earning a place at the year’s third major.
“I’ve won the championship for the past two years and will do my best to win a third time, but I think that all my teammates will also have a good chance of doing well if they play their best,” Matsuyama said. “I know they will be really impressed by the event and its organisation.”
The championship offers the winner an invitation to the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship.
The event is organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, and will feature up to 120 players from the APGC’s 36 member associations. Nations are offered between two to six invitations depending on their players’ WAGR ranking, while Thailand can have an additional four players as the host.
The championship will be broadcast to more than 150 countries, confirming it as the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament. Asian Tour Media will produce the high-definition telecast, which for the first time will include two hours of live coverage on each of the four days. A 30-minute highlights show will also be produced at the conclusion of the event.
ESPN-STAR Sports will broadcast live coverage on all four days in Thailand (3.00pm-5.00pm) and many other countries and territories across Asia. Tokyo Broadcasting System (Japan), SBS Golf (Korea), Guangdong Golf Channel (China), Fox Sports (Australia), Sky Sports (New Zealand) and Fox Sports (Middle East) will cover other key markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The championship will be shown live in the United States (4.00am-6.00am Eastern Time) on ESPNU (November 1-2) and then ESPN2 (November 3-4). Other broadcasters include ESPN (Latin America), SuperSport (Africa), TSN (Canada) and CNBC Europe. All of the coverage will also be streamed live on the official event Web site, www.AACgolf.com.