As the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship gets under way, Rob Smith shares his initial behind-the-scenes thoughts…

Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship – First Impressions

Having travelled just about as far as it is possible to travel without actually heading into outer space, I arrived in the Media Centre at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship yesterday to acclimatise and prepare a short tournament preview.

Despite a definite but happily mild jet-lag, I immediately realised that this was not just another golf event but something far more special. And as the day wore on, everything I encountered backed this up from the large, state-of-the-art Media Centre to the signage out on the course.

The impressive Media Centre

The event is run with extreme professionalism by The R&A and their partners from The Masters Tournament and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, and the Media Centre itself is catering for visitors from all over the world. During the final practice day it was host to a number of press conferences featuring some of this week’s competitors and I was greatly impressed by their confidence and articulate replies.

Australian players Dylan Perry, Harrison Endycott, Travis Smyth and Min Woo Lee

Under cloudy skies, the official opening ceremony took place at the end of the afternoon. This began with a fly-past by the Royal New Zealand Air Force acrobatics team and continued with performances of traditional Maori song and dance as the dignitaries arrived. There were several members of Augusta National in attendance, resplendent in their green jackets.

A Maori welcome for the dignitaries

During the ceremony, the host nation’s leading amateur competing this week spoke to the large audience with great clarity and without referring to his notes. Nick Voke turned 23 last week and is the world amateur number 44. In terms of role model, he must be ranked even higher.

Nick Voke speaks at the opening ceremony

Earlier, local hero Sir Bob Charles had popped into the Media Centre for a look round and he came across as a thoroughly good man; enthusiastic, friendly, and still working as a fantastic ambassador for New Zealand golf at the age of 81.

The great Sir Bob Charles

I also met for the first time, The R&A’s Chief Executive, Martin Slumbers. As with Sir Bob, he could not have been more friendly and it was a real pleasure to chat with him.

Having previously worked at a number of European Tour events in China, South Africa and elsewhere, I had perhaps expected the whole set-up at an amateur event to be… well… less professional?! I could not have been more wrong and the dedication, hard work, and indeed professionalism on show at this important championship could not be greater.