Rising Indian star Rayhan Thomas identified the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) as the main event he would be working toward in 2018 and his determination is definitely bearing fruit ahead of the 10th edition of the region’s premier amateur golf tournament.
The Dubai-based 19-year-old is the highest-ranked Indian going into the event at 45th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and will carry the hopes of a billion people when the event is held at Sentosa Golf Club’s New Tanjong course in Singapore from October 4-7.
After finishing tied for 29th in Korea (2016) and tied for 35th in New Zealand (2017) in his previous AAC appearances, Thomas is confident he can contend for the title in Singapore following some hard work on his swing this year.
“Refining the swing is an ongoing process with most golfers. I have been working on a few things since the end of last year. I was hoping to get it in the groove before the Asian Games in Jakarta, followed by the AAC,” said the Indian teen who matched Mark Calcavecchia’s record of nine successive birdies in a recognized professional event last year during the Dubai Creek Open on the MENA Golf Tour.
“I think the swing is now almost where we wanted it to be. I hit the ball really well in the Jakarta Asian Games but my putting let me down there. Hopefully, everything will come together during the AAC. It is one of the biggest events we play as amateurs every year and I want to be in contention come Sunday afternoon.”
Unlike many of the top players in the field who are planning to turn professional toward the end of the year, Thomas is keen to gather more experience by extending his amateur career. He has committed to Oklahoma State University (OSU), partly influenced by PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler and Peter Uihlein, and is hoping a good showing at the AAC will elevate his status when he starts there in August next year.
“It would be awesome if I arrive at OSU as the AAC champion and having played at The Masters and The Open. It would definitely give me some bragging rights. I am looking for a W but a high finish will also be so good for my confidence when I start playing college golf in the U.S.,” said Thomas, who finished tied for 13th at the Asian Games and became the first Indian last year to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Thomas confessed to being a big fan of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
“It really is an amazing event. Not just the fact that it has organizations like The R&A and Augusta National Golf Club behind it and it has possibly the most sought after prize in amateur golf, what I like most is that they treat us so well and make us feel as if we are playing in a world class professional event,” added Thomas.
“Starting from the registration process, to the golf course they choose and how it is all set up, it is a dream for any amateur in the region to play in it and win it.”
The champion in Singapore earns an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and a place in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019, provided he retains his amateur status. The runner(s)-up will gain a spot in The Open Qualifying Series.
No player from India has ever won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which was created by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A. The best finish by an Indian was Khalin Joshi when he tied for ninth in 2010 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe City, Japan.