October 26, 2017: Australia’s players have their coaches as their caddies at this week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand, and Min Woo Lee, for one, had mixed thoughts on the tactic at Royal Wellington Golf Club.
Currently 34th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Lee is his country’s fourth-ranked amateur and the fifth-ranked competitor in the AAC where six Australians are each hoping to succeed compatriot Curtis Luck and earn spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and, for the first time, The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
Lee’s coach Ritchie Smith is on the bag at Royal Wellington and the 19-year-old younger brother of LPGA Tour star Minjee Lee admitted he could see both positives and negatives.
“It’s going to be good and bad,” Lee said. “I think everyone expects that it will be tough to have a coach on the bag, but I think if we get past that, I think everyone will go well.”
The rest of Lee’s teammates quizzed on the topic were far more optimistic about the situation, especially Australia No. 1 Travis Smyth.
Renowned coach John Serhan is based at St Michael’s Golf Club and has frequently caddied for Smyth at club events, and he was also on the bag when the tall 22-year-old won last month’s Northern Territory PGA Championship pro event.
“I have a pretty good track record with John as my caddie, so I’m happy he’s here on the bag. John is the coach at my golf club back in Sydney and over the years he’s caddied for me there a lot – I don’t know if we’ve lost a match there,” said Smyth, the World No. 11 and the AAC’s top-ranked player.
“When I won the NT PGA, I think it was the first time he’s caddied for me in a proper event. We did everything pretty well and won by six strokes.”
Dylan Perry, runner-up in The Amateur Championship in England in June, will have coach Simon Deep on the bag and was also excited about the prospect.
“I think it’s really good to know that they are here for support throughout the week, not only for them as caddie but as a coach, as well. It’s comforting to know that they are there to help you,” said Perry, Australia’s third-ranked player.
Perry also said he was happy for he and his teammates to be labelled as favorites going into the event, a year after Australians finished first, second and fourth in Korea.
Perry said: “We definitely are a strong team but this week it’s individual, so we are all here to win. Obviously we’re a good team, but it’s whoever’s the best player during the week.”
Lee was certainly in full agreement with his teammates on this topic. “Like Dylan said, everyone is here to win it. We’d like to think that we are the top team and I know we have really good players on the team, although it’s an individual event and everyone can win it.
“It would be special for another Aussie to win. It would mean a lot to Aussie golf and we owe it to Golf Australia which has helped us a lot through the junior ranks till now. It would mean a lot and hopefully we get it done.”
Players from Australia, China, Korea and Japan have each claimed the trophy twice in the first eight years of the AAC.
This week, top players from outside the ‘big four’ nations include World No. 26 Rayhan Thomas of India, No. 36 ‘Kevin’ Yu Chun-an of Chinese Taipei, No. 42 Nick Voke of hosts New Zealand, No. 52 Sadom Kaewkanjana, Lee Won-jun of Korea and Japan’s Sean Maruyama, son of three-time PGA TOUR winner Shigeki Maruyama.
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.