Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Jin Cheng might have Augusta National on his mind but insists his immediate focus is on Abu Dhabi and China’s bid for a first victory in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Team Championship.
Jin will spearhead China’s tilt for a fourth Nomura Cup title at Yas Links Abu Dhabi over the next four days fresh from winning the weather-shortened Asia-Pacific individual amateur men’s title in Hong Kong this month.
The victory earned the 17-year-old a start in next April’s US Masters at Augusta National where he will trade blows with the world’s best professionals including defending champion Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.
It’s head-spinning stuff for one so young but the talented teen appears to be taking it all in his stride at Yas Links where 27, four-man teams tee it up today morrow in the opening round of the 72-hole team stroke play event.
“Augusta is the dream of every golfer I guess and I think when I step there next year it is just going to be so exciting,” Jin said.
“I’m excited about everything. Every round I play there, how the course is going to look like and the facilities and Augusta itself. Everything. They are the best players in the world so I’m just going to try to learn from them and enjoy the tournament and enjoy the time I play with them.”
For now Jin is focused on leading China’s bid for their first Nomura Cup win. It will be a monumental feat if China does get up given recent history. Australia has won a record 10 Nomura Cups, including seven of the last eight titles so is the warm favourite this week.
Australia’s Trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand, eight-time champions Japan and Chinese Taipei all intend having a say in the outcome of the championship. As do China who will be leaning heavily on Jin.
Jin certainly appears to have the game and the nerve to put China in contention. His victory at the individual Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Hong Kong included a sizzling opening round, course record 62 at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.
He followed it up with rounds of 68-69 for a one shot lead heading into the final round which was eventually abandoned due to the weather.
“The organisers did give us a notice after round three that round four might be cancelled but said they would try their best to play. I was eating my meal [breakfast] before round four, ready for round four, ready to go out and warm up and everybody was saying ‘it’s been cancelled, congrats!” said Jin.
“That win is really meaningful to me and my family. It’s a great achievement for me and is really encouraging [for a career in the game] too.”
A professional career beckons, but a second Nomura Cup campaign is this week’s focus. He played at the last edition in Thailand in 2013 and won selection for the Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy on the back of his form there.
Jin isn’t predicting how China will perform at Yas Links but is looking forward to the week.
“It’s my first time in Abu Dhabi and I couldn’t wait to go out on the golf course. I enjoy playing team events even though we don’t get to play them a lot. The kind of feeling you get from spending time with your team-mates is different from when you play individual events. I’m always proud to represent my country.”
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