Singapore players plan to embrace the rewards and challenges that come with having the home advantage as they prepare to launch a bid for their country’s first-ever Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) title.
The Island Nation hosts the 10th edition of the premier amateur golf tournament of the region this week, with the first round to be played on Thursday, 4 October. It is the second time that Singapore has hosted the AAC – the first was in 2011 at Singapore Island Country Club, when Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama won his second consecutive AAC title.
The hosts’ charge will be led by Gregory Foo, the highest-ranked local player at No. 101 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The 25-year-old leads a strong contingent of eight players – the others in the fray are Abdul Hadi, Joshua Ho, Wee Jin Low, Lucius Toh, Donovan Lee, Andre Wei Zer Chong and Ryan Wong.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Toh, who is playing in his first AAC, said: “It’s an amazing opportunity to be playing on home soil, with everybody behind us. We are all very excited and looking forward to it. We will be very appreciative of all the support we get and it will really mean a lot to us. It will motivate us to play better.”
Hadi, who played in Wellington last year and finished a creditable tied for 17th place, elaborated: “It’s definitely an advantage for us. To have practiced here a lot, knowing the different kind of shots you need to hit and the places you want to avoid…but at the end of the day, still, the best golfer wins.
“To have our friends and families here, I see it as something to motivate myself. Of course, there are a lot more expectations from you. That might be a bit of a hindrance, but we will try to embrace the situation, and use all the support as something to spur us to play better.”
Foo, who played in the first AAC in 2009 and has missed only two editions when he did his national service, is probably playing his last event as an amateur, unless he wins this week. That would mean a dream spot in the Masters and The Open, and he’d gladly extend his amateur career for that.
“It’s definitely very special to play here at home in Singapore. This is my eighth time playing this event and I think this week is going to be very special, knowing that it could possibly be my last,” said Foo.
“I have been playing well and I want to give it my best shot. If I do win, it would be amazing. We have had players like Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing qualifying for The Open, but no one has ever played at the Masters. It would be historic to be the first Singaporean to play at the Masters.”
The team was missing Ho when they addressed a press conference. The 24-year-old, who was part of the Singapore team that won the 2017 SEA Games gold medal, is in his final year of Business Studies at Singapore Management University and had one of his exam papers on Tuesday.
“I am sure Joshua’s mind is here,” said Foo. “But seriously, I know he will do well in both. He has planned and prepared very well for the AAC, as well as his exams.”
The AAC which is now one of the ‘Elite’ events on the WAGR, is supported by six Proud Partners – 3M, AT&T, Delta, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.
The AAC champion 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.
The 72-hole stroke play event at Sentosa promises to be a real festival of golf in a special year for the championship, which has been a springboard for players such as two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan (2010 and 2011), China’s Guan Tianlang (2012 winner who went on to become the youngest ever to make the cut at the Masters) and the promising Australian Curtis Luck (2016).