Wednesday 8 December 2021

Keita Nakajima

Five golfers to watch at the Asia-Pacific Amateur clash

DUBAI, October 26, 2021

Some of the finest players in the region will battle for the crown in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) when the 12th edition of the championship is contested at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club from November 3-6.
Japan’s Keita Nakajima and China’s Yuxin Lin are two of the most compelling stories at this year’s event. 
Nakajima will be entering the championship as the reigning No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), while the two-time AAC champion Lin aims to surpass 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (2010, 2011) and become the first player to win the title three times.
However, with the region attempting to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic which denied many players competitive action for a long period, the field will be eager to make its mark in the Asia-Pacific region’s most integral amateur championship. 
And the big motivation for the 120-player field is an invitation to the 2022 Masters and the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
The following five players are likely to make a mark in this year’s championship.
Keita Nakajima (Japan)
Ranking (as of October 20): 1
The 21-year-old becomes only the fourth active WAGR No. 1 player to compete in the AAC, joining Matsuyama, Japan’s Takumi Kanaya and Australia’s Curtis Luck. He took over as the top-ranked amateur in the world when Kanaya – his compatriot, best friend and 2018 AAC champion – turned professional.
The Tokyo-based Nippon Sport Science University student is making his fourth appearance in the championship and aims to finish better than his tie for second place in 2018. With amateur golf coming to a standstill in the region, he has relied on playing against the professionals on Japan Golf Tour since the beginning of 2020, winning once at the Panasonic Open, finishing inside the top 10 three times and recording two top-20 finishes. 
Sam Choi (Korea) 
Ranking: 13
The recent form of the 21-year-old University of New Mexico senior, who is majoring in communications, is a clear message to fans that the AAC this year is much more than a Nakajima-Lin fight.
In five events between May and July this year, Choi won the New Mexico-West Texas Amateur and Maridoe Amateur Championship, and finished runner-up in the Mountain West Conference individual championship and the Pacific Coast Amateur, advancing to a playoff in both events. In his last two events, the Wolf Pack Classic and the William H. Tucker in Albuquerque, he finished in a tie for runner-up.
This marks Choi’s first appearance in the AAC.
Yuxin Lin (China)
Ranking: 22
The defending champ – a winner in Wellington in 2017 and Shanghai in 2019 – will not only be looking to hold on to his crown and become just the second player after Hideki Matsuyama to repeat as champion in AAC history, he will also attempt to better the Japanese legend and win the AAC title for a record third time.
This marks Lin’s fifth start in the championship, and after finishing tied for 21st in his debut appearance in South Korea (2016), his worst finish was a tie for ninth place in Singapore in 2018. 
Puwit Anupansuebsai (Thailand)
Ranking: 42
The 22-year-old, a senior at San Diego State University, is in prime position to add Thailand to the championship’s annals. 
A two-time member of the International Team in the Arnold Palmer Cup, he won all three of his matches in 2021. Across a six-week stretch of college golf in April through May this year, he won twice and finished second in two other starts.
Arjun Gupta (India) 
Ranking: 202
While the 17-year-old Indian may not be ranked high, he has an edge over the field – born and raised in Dubai, Gupta has the best local knowledge of the field on how to tackle the course at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
Gupta won the Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship in December last year, which earned him a place in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He also participated in the U.S. Junior Amateurs this year and reached the round of 16.
Interestingly, Gupta’s twin sister, Natalii, has been nominated by the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) to play under the UAE flag in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, which is being held the week after the AAC in Abu Dhabi.-TradeArabia News Service


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