The Cut Makers

While most of the attention at the end of the second round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) was understandably focused on leader Jin Cheng of China and his closest challengers the top of the leader board, there was plenty of drama involving those players who were battling to make the weekend action.

It proved to be a good day for the tournament hosts from Hong Kong, with three of their players – Matthew Cheung, who blitzed his way to a 64 to spring into contention, Motin Yeung and Leon D’Souza – making the cut. D’Souza, in particular, showed great resolve. Needing a birdie at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club’s par-5 closing hole, the 17-year-old struck a sublime hybrid to within inches of the hole for an iron eagle – and safety.

A little piece of history was made when Phetnoy Siboupha became the first Laotian in the seven-year history of the AAC to survive the halfway cut. Siboupha, one of only two players from Laos in the field this year, held his nerve superbly, carding a solid 70 to finish at 2-over for the event, a shot inside the cutline.

“It is always an honour to represent my country, so I’m very happy to play well at such a big tournament,” said the 21-year-old, who attends the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “This will make quite a lot of news back in my country.”

Siboupha was steadiness personified, recording two birdies and two bogeys in his level-par effort to lie in a share of 48th heading into the weekend.

Laos isn’t exactly well served in terms of golf facilities. According to Siboupha, there are only two courses of an international standard and very few amateur tournaments.

“My goals at this championship are to enjoy myself, meet new friends and gain experience, and I’ve done all of those things already,” he continued. “I hope that golf in Laos can grow and more and more people can play the game.”

A shot behind Siboupha lies Quan Truong, who became the first Vietnamese player since the inaugural AAC in 2009 to make it through to the weekend. Truong, who has enjoyed some success this year at American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events, followed up a fine 68 in the first round with a 75 to make it by a shot.

Such is the size of the Asia-Pacific region that travel can sometimes be an issue. That was certainly the case for Ned Howard of the Cook Islands, who required four flights – and countless hours – to reach Hong Kong from his Pacific Island home. Not that he seemed to be feeling the effects of jetlag. The 22-year-old posted a 75 after a brilliant opening 66 to make the cut for the second time.

“I’m relieved and happy,” said Howard, who finished the 2013 AAC at Nanshan International Golf Club in China in a tie for 48th. “This is one of the top amateur tournaments in the world, so to make the cut is a hard thing to do. It’s another step forward for me. It’s a proud moment.”

One player who has flown very much under the radar this week – and who was never in danger of missing the cut – Devin Hua. A native of Guam, the 17-year-old finished in a tie for 22nd at his championship debut at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club 12 months ago and is clearly enjoying the challenge of Clearwater Bay. The winner of the last three Guam Amateur Championship lies in a share of 11th place after rounds of 65 and 70.

“I hoped to have shot a better score today but I’m still in a good position,” said Hua, who won the AJGA’s Mission Hills Desert Junior in Palm Springs this June. “The newspapers back home have been following my progress so people will know how I’ve been doing, but I wish golf was more popular in Guam.

“My ultimate goal is to turn pro but I’ll go to college first and make a decision from there.”