October 24, 2017: The historic Royal Wellington Golf Club is expected to present a windy challenge as the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) makes its debut in New Zealand, with the 72-hole stroke play event teeing off on Thursday.
Founded in 1895, the club sits alongside the Hutt River half-an-hour northeast of Wellington, New Zealand’s famously windy capital. A 6,845-yard, par-71 layout has been set for the 120-strong field, with par-fives at holes two, four and 18.
Cool weather and strong winds are expected to be among the main challenges for competitors, with the eventual champion earning spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and, for the first time, The 147th Open at Carnoustie. The runner(s)-up will earn a place in The Open Qualifying Series for The Open.
Daniel Hillier, 19, knows the course better than any other player in the field, as a Royal Wellington member who has spent most of his life in the area.
“The guys can expect the wind to swirl quite a lot, as the club sits in a valley and the wind just bounces off all the hills. It’s a good test and most likely it’ll be pretty strong as well. You’ve got to be on top of your game,” said Hillier, New Zealand’s second-ranked amateur.
“It still trips me up from time to time. It’s one of those courses where you’ve just got to check where it’s coming from and commit to the shot. With the redevelopment a few years ago, the club has come a long way. It looks beautiful and it’s a great test of golf so it should be a good week.”
Australians Travis Smyth – playing the AAC for a third successive year – and Harrison Endycott are the highest-ranked competitors in a field featuring 38 nations.
Smyth and Endycott, 12th and 14th respectively in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, head a strong six-man Australia contingent looking to retain the title won by compatriot Curtis Luck in South Korea last year.
Min Woo Lee, younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee and last year’s US Junior Amateur champion, and Australia teammates Dylan Perry, who finished runner-up in The Amateur Championship, Shae Wools-Cobb and Charlie Dann are all making their AAC debut.
Indian teen Rayhan Thomas is the field’s third-ranked player at World No. 26 and one to watch after equalling the record for most consecutive birdies at a professional event last month, shooting nine in a row at a MENA Tour event at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, his home course.
Yu Chun-an (World No. 34) is Taiwan’s top-ranked player, while Andy Zhang (World No. 39) heads a China line-up that features former champions Jin Cheng (2015) and Guan Tianlang (2012), who’s playing in the AAC for a sixth straight year.
World No. 44 Nick Voke – playing for the fourth time in five years – is the host country’s top-ranked amateur and the Iowa State University graduate is in fine form, having won one of the dozen First Stage events in the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament earlier this month. Voke, 23, and Hillier are part of a 10-player New Zealand line-up.
Sean Maruyama is Japan’s top-ranked player and the son of Shigeki Maruyama, a 10-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and a three-time PGA TOUR winner, while Philippines No. 1 Lloyd Jefferson Go is playing for the fifth straight year and among several US college golfers in the field.
Situated on the southern coast of New Zealand’s North Island and renowned as one of the world’s windiest cities, Wellington is the country’s third-biggest city with a population of about 200,000, far less than Auckland, which has about 1.5 million people.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) is organised by the Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A – and will be televised across 160 countries and reach millions of homes around the world.
The Championship is also supported by six Proud Partners – AT&T, 3M, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Zurich and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.