Shanghai, China: ‘Lefty’ Lin Yuxin birdied the 18th hole twice in a dramatic play-off to beat defending champion and world number one Takumi Kanaya and become the second two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC).
Lin, the 2017 champion, reached the final hole of regulation at Sheshan International Golf Club at 11-under-par but struck his second shot from a fairway bunker into the water and had to settle for a bogey-six and a round of 68.
Kanaya, meanwhile, laid up perfectly and hit his third shot to less than five feet but missed the birdie putt that would have made him only the second player to successfully defend his title after fellow-Japanese Hideki Matsuyama (2010 and 2011).
Kanaya signed off with a 69 to join Beijing native Lin at the top of the leaderboard on 10-under 278, ensuring the first sudden-death play-off in the championship’s history.
Both made unlikely birdies at the first extra hole, the par-five 18th. Left-handed Lin made his four after muscling his ball out of thick rough with almost no stance, while Kanaya sank a 30-foot putt.
Returning to 18 for the second extra hole, Lin clinched victory after splashing out from a greenside bunker to three feet and making the putt for another birdie. Kanaya missed his birdie attempt from a longer range.
It was the perfect homecoming for Lin, who earned an invitation to next year’s Masters Tournament and The 149thOpen at Royal St George’s.
Having shifted his home base to Los Angeles last month, where he is now a freshman at the University of Southern California, it was a poignant moment for the teenage Chinese, whose father acted as his caddie.
“It means a lot to me. Winning at home is huge for me and for China golf, as well. I’m really honoured to be alongside Hideki as a two-time winner,” said Lin, who turns 19 in two weeks.
As he entered the play-off, Lin was mindful of the fact that the 18th had proven troublesome for him, playing the hole in four-over for the last three rounds.
“I was having a little trouble with the 18th three days in a row. Stepping on the 18th again wasn’t a great feeling for me. And that lie off the tee shot on the first extra hole was definitely not what you wanted. But at least everything turned out pretty well,” said Lin, 114th in The R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Lin, who clinched his first AAC title with a birdie-eagle finish at New Zealand’s Royal Wellington Golf Club two years ago, added: “I didn’t really think about the win. I was just trying to play some good golf out there. I made some mistakes throughout the round but stayed patient the whole time.
“It matters a lot playing against the best amateur in the world right now. Obviously, Takumi is a great player. It gives me a lot of confidence to be able to compete with the number one player in the world in extra holes.”
Kanaya, who gained a spot in The Open Qualifying Series as runner-up, revealed his plans to return to the 2020 AAC at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Golf Club. “I came here with the sole aim of winning the tournament. I did not have the best first round, but I am very proud of the way I fought back. I am so happy for Yuxin, and I will be watching him play the Majors and rooting for him.
“I missed that putt on the 72nd hole of regulation play, but I was immediately focused on the play-off. It did not bother me much as I knew I’d have another chance. Yuxin had the advantage on 18 with his length off the tee. I will now head home and practice to become better,” he said.
Chinese Taipei’s Liu Yung-hua (71) made an early charge with birdies on the first, second and third. He added another on the fifth to grab the outright lead. A bogey on the sixth, however, followed by a double on the par-four ninth, reeled him back.
Playing in the final pairing, Liu remained in contention for the play-off but three-putted for a bogey on the final hole and finished in a tie for third place at nine-under alongside Thai Tanapat Pichaikool, who eagled 14and 18to record the best round of the day, a seven-under-par 65.
Five countries were represented in the top five on the final leaderboard with Chinese Taipei’s Yu Chun-an, Singapore’s James Leow and Ren Yonezawa of Japan finishing in a tie for fifth at eight-under.