On a quite glorious Spring day, the penultimate round of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship saw plenty of exciting golf. Rob Smith reports…
Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship Day Three
At the halfway stage of the ninth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, 62 elite young golfers had made the cut here in New Zealand. They represented no fewer than 21 different nationalities, with the home contingent numbering eight, and six players from both Australia and Japan. As the game grows around the world, it was encouraging to see golfers from the Cook Islands, Bangladesh, Guam and elsewhere make the cut.
On an unusually calm and beautifully mild and bright Saturday morning, the three leaders teed off last; Shae Wools-Cobb from Australia at 5-under, Yuxin Lin from China at 6-under, and another Australian Min Woo Lee just one ahead at 7-under.
The leader had finished birdie-birdie-eagle on Friday evening, but surprisingly the long-hitter dropped a shot at the par-5 2nd before more than making up for it with an eagle at the long 4th. Three more dropped shots and a pair of birdies meant that he finished as he began.
There was understandably a great deal of support for Kiwi Nick Voke who started his round four back, and the popular 23 year-old managed four birdies on his front nine to close the gap.
Sadly, Voke fell away on the back nine with five bogeys to fall off the pace. Behind him, China’s Andy Zhang had a stuttering start to his round with a double on the par-5 2nd, but recovered brilliantly to record six birdies around the turn to join the lead at 7-under. All of these young men seem remarkably assured and mature, and afterwards Zhang said, “I didn’t try to do anything different in the last three days, and I think it’s paid off. I think if I do the same thing tomorrow and just stay very patient and stay very disciplined out there, I’ll be fine.”
Edging ahead courtesy of a closing birdie, Zhang’s compatriot Yuxin Lin overcame an even greater obstacle after his attempted recovery on the 6th hit a tree and he ran up a triple-bogey seven. Such is the maturity and resilience of these dedicated youngsters that he put this and another bogey behind him to come home in 32 and post a 2-under 69.
The result of all this jostling is that Lin, Zhang and Lee will go out last on Sunday with just one shot separating them, while first-round leader Shae Wools-Cobb, China’s Yechan Yuan and New Zealander Kerry Mountcastle will be in the penultimate group. With just 18 holes to play and the mouth-watering prospect of a spot in both The Masters and The Open Championship next year, the scene is set for a dramatic final day here at Royal Wellington Golf Club on Sunday.