Japan’s Shohei Hasegawa and Lee Chang-woo of Korea share the half-way lead at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) following contrasting rounds in difficult conditions at Nanshan International Golf Club in Shandong province, China.
Hasegawa, a 21-year-old who attends Osaka Gakuin University, mixed three birdies and two dropped shots in a round of 1-under 70, which was a brilliant effort given the cool temperatures (56F / 13C) and challenging winds that gusted up to 25 miles per hour throughout the day. His two-day total of level-par 142 was matched by the in-form Lee (72), who ended a run of 15 consecutive pars with a birdie at the 16th before back-to-back bogeys over his final two holes.
First-round leader Dou Zecheng (75) of China and Korea’s Lee Soo-min (70) lie a shot back in a tie for third alongside Kazuya Koura of Japan, who fired a 2-under 69, the low round of the day.
An invitation to the Masters Tournament awaits the winner, along with automatic entry into International Final Qualifying (Asia) for The Open Championship with the runner(s)-up.
“I played well in general, although I missed a few chances, and tomorrow I want to try and get the best out of my game,” said Hasegawa, whose elegant swing withstood the elements admirably. “If the conditions stay the same, I don’t think really low scores are possible. The key is knowing which holes to attack and which holes to be conservative.”
Hasegawa, who is making his AAC debut this week, has played four professional events on the Japan Golf Tour, making the cut three times. Earning an invitation to the Masters Tournament, he said, is his ultimate goal.
“I watch all the majors on TV, but the Masters is my favorite of them all,” said Hasegawa, who averages 280 yards off the tee. “I want to be on that stage soon.”
Lee, who finished alongside Rory McIlroy in second place at last week’s Korea Open, was consistency personified for most of the day before missing short putts at the 17th and 18th holes. Nonetheless, the 19-year-old was optimistic about his chances over the weekend.
“Everything was going so well, but I kind of messed up at the end,” said Lee, No. 31 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “But I came here with the aim of winning the tournament and it’s just about trying to be comfortable [over the weekend].”
Dou, who didn’t drop a shot during his opening round of 68, found things a bit more of a struggle on the second morning. The bucket hat-wearing 16-year-old, who started from the 10th tee, dropped four shots in his first nine holes before steadying the ship down the closing stretch.
“Wearing three shirts messed me up a bit today,” said Dou, who is known to his Western friends as Marty. “My irons weren’t that great and my warm-up wasn’t good – it was too cold this morning. But I’m not going to be too far off the lead by the end of the day. I’m feeling good.”
Japan’s Taihei Sato lies in solo sixth spot rounds of 73-71, while last year’s runner-up, Pan Cheng-tsung, along with Oliver Goss and Brady Watt, both semifinalists at this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship, are among those a further shot back in a tie for seventh at 145.
Birthday boy Guan Tianlang, who turned 15 on Friday, will need to be at his very best if he is to successfully defend the title he won in such sensational fashion in Bangkok last year. Guan repeated his opening score of 74 in the second round to lie in a share of 17th, six shots off the pace.
At day’s end, 61 players survived the cut at 159. At 17 over par, the cut was eight shots higher than any previous AAC, which could be attributed to the cold and windy conditions that persisted the first two days.