Dubai, Oct 12 (IANS) China’s defending champion Yuxin Lin will aim for an unprecedented third Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) title, but for that to happen, he will have to beat the in-form Japanese world No.1 Keita Nakajima and the cream of region’s talent at the 12th edition of the championship, set to be held from November 3-6 2021 at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
The 21-year-old Beijing-born Lin won his first title in 2017 at Royal Wellington by three shots after closing with a birdie and an eagle, and then reclaimed the crown from Japan’s Takumi Kanaya when he defeated him in a playoff for the 2019 tournament at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.
Now in his junior year at University of Florida, the southpaw, ranked No. 20 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), will try to become the first player in the history of the championship to win three times. Lin and Japan’s reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (2010 and 2011) are the only players to have won multiple AAC titles.
“It would be a dream-come-true if I can win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship for a third time. To be already placed in the same bracket as Hideki Matsuyama as two-time champion is surreal, so to get one ahead would be amazing,” said Lin, who already has prior experience of playing in the UAE, having finished tied for 30th in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship last year.
“It is the biggest tournament in our part of the world and I know how much each contestant would be eager to get their hands on the trophy, and the subsequent invitation to the Masters and the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews next year. It will be a tough task, but I will give it my best shot.”
While Lin is currently eyeing a return to form with his last win coming in March 2020 at the Southern Highlands Collegiate, Nakajima has been an unstoppable force in his home country. In his last three starts, he has won the Japan Amateur Championship, followed by last week’s triumph at the Panasonic Open against a quality field of professionals on the Japan Golf Tour.
Nakajima, who came close to winning the AAC in 2018 in Singapore where he was a co-leader going into the final round but his fine 67 was upstaged by compatriot and best friend Kanaya (65), won the Mark McCormack Medal in August this year for being the top-ranked amateur in the world. He took over the world’s pole position from Kanaya after the latter turned pro in 2020.