Pan Sets Sight on Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship

BANGKOK – Pan Cheng-tsung, of Chinese Taipei, Asia’s second-highest ranked amateur, will make his event debut at the fourth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which will be held from November 1-4 at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, outside Bangkok.

Pan, a quarterfinalist in this year’s U.S. Amateur, is currently 13th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). He will be joined in Thailand by compatriots Kao Teng, who has played all three previous events, Liu Wei-hou (2010, 2011), Lee Chieh-po (2011) and fellow first-timers Chiu Han-ting and Wang Wei-hsiang.

Born in Miaoli County, Pan moved to the United States in 2007 to attend a golf academy in Bradenton, Florida. He is now in his second year at the University of Washington, where he competes on the golf team alongside such players as Chris Williams, who recently received the McCormack Medal as the leading player in the WAGR.

However, after not competing in Asia for five years, he’s eager to play in Thailand for the first time and take on Asia-Pacific’s finest, including Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who is attempting a third consecutive win after victories in Japan in 2010 and Singapore last year.

“I’ve improved my short game and putting a lot, and they’ve become the strongest parts of my game, so I think I have a chance to win. I just need to prepare myself properly and do my best,” said Pan, the youngest of six children.

“I’ve followed the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship since it started and noticed the scores get lower every year. The competition is strong. I’ve heard many nice things from my Taiwanese friends who played in the last two events and from my coach, Matt Thurmond, who went to Singapore last year.”

Pan qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open, missing the cut at Congressional Country Club, and can earn more major opportunities at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which is organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A.

The winner will be invited to compete in the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in next year’s International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship.

“There are not a lot of opportunities like this,” he said. “I’ve not played any tournaments back in Asia since 2007, so I really, really want to go back and compete.

“Between the ages of 11 and 16, I competed in lots of tournaments in Asia. I was really lucky to travel to many countries, see many cultures and play my favorite sport. I enjoyed those tournaments and the atmosphere and I miss where I’m from,” added Pan, who has played in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, China, Philippines, Indonesia, India and Singapore.

Pan is expected to be one of the main challengers to Matsuyama. In fact, Pan outperformed the Japanese star at the U.S. Amateur in August. While Matsuyama failed to advance to the match play portion of the event, Pan qualified and reached the final eight for the second time. In 2007, he became the event’s youngest quarterfinalist since Bobby Jones, then 15, in 1920.

The sophomore star has watched Matsuyama blossom on his two Masters appearances, both earned through his wins in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. The Japanese golfer finished 27th in 2011 to win the Silver Cup as low amateur and again made the cut at Augusta National Golf Club this past April.

“I’ve watched Matsuyama on TV and heard a lot about him while he was playing in the Masters, how competitive he is and his high level of golf skills,” Pan said. “All I know about the top players in the field this year is their competitiveness, and I’m looking forward to seeing that from them because I’m very competitive as well.”

This year’s field will include up to 120 players from the 36 member nations of the APGC. Each nation receives two invitations based on the WAGR as of August 29, while the rest of the field is made up of invitations by ranking. Each country is allowed up to six players, while Thailand can have a further four players as the host nation.