AAC Release – 07 October 2018: Rayhan Thomas came within a whisker of creating history as he finished Tied-second in the elite Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships. His Tied-2nd was still the best finish ever by an Indian in the 10-year history of the Championships.
The 20-year-old Dubai-based Thomas (4-under 66) ended two shots behind the winner, Takumi Kanaya (65), who made a great charge between the 14th and 16th with three successive birdies to surge ahead to victory over Thomas and the Asian Games individual gold medallist fellow Japanese Keita Nakajima (67).
The 20-year-old Kanaya, second individually at the World Amateur Championships last month, days after being part of Japan’s Asian Games gold medal-winning team in Jakarta, totalled 13-under 267. Thomas and Nakajima were 11-under 269 as the threat of lightning stopped play for an hour and 11 minutes at the new Tanjong Golf Course.
While Kanaya earned the coveted spots into the 2019 Masters and the 2019 Open Championships, both Thomas and Nakajima will get a spot to the final stage of the Open Qualifying Series.
Overall, it was India’s best-ever Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships, with Thomas (T-2) being followed by debutant Kartik Sharma (70) in T-13, despite a bogey-bogey finish. Yuvraj Sandhu (71) also dropped two shots in last four holes and ended T-25, while Kshitij Naveed Kaul (67) was T-38th and Varun Parikh (74) was T-57th. Five of six Indian players made the cut this week, with only Vinay Kumar missing out.
“I am very proud and thrilled with the finish and I know I can compete with the best,” said left-handed Kartik, who plays at the DLF.
Thomas fought back from a disappointing 4-over on the first day and was the only player in the Top-6 to have an over par during the week. With 64-65-66, he was 15-under for last 54 holes.
“This medal (second place) means a lot to me. That 4-over on first day was pretty disheartening but I am very proud to have fought back from there and come so close,” said Thomas. “What I have learnt most of all is that you can’t shoot 4-over on first day and still win a championships like this.”
“I have been playing well, but I just did not score well as the putts did not fall (on first day),” said Thomas, smiling despite the obvious disappointment. “It is good to know that I can win this as I still have maybe two or three shots at it (the AAC),” he added.
“I knew I was one shot behind (Nakajima) around the 12th and I still felt if I could get that birdie on 17th, which I missed, at 12-under I would have a chance (against Kanaya). If I had got that I would have gone for a birdie on 18th, too. Also the bogey on 15th cost me heavy.”
Overnight leader and defending champion, Lin Yuxin (75) had a very disappointing day and slipped to Tied-9th.
Filipino Lloyd Jefferson Go (69) was fourth in his last event as an amateur, while Thai KK Limbhasut (69) was fifth and 2015 AAC champion Cheng Jin (70) who shared the lead after first two days, was sixth. Another big hopeful, China’s Andy Zhang, second last year, ended T-13 after a final round of 73.
Kanaya started the day in Tied-3rd and two shots behind overnight leader and defending champion. For a better part of the round, Nakajima held the lead as he was 4-under through first 10 holes. Kanaya, 4-under through first eight, dropped a shot on eighth but after the turn the tide, too, turned. Kanaya’s three birdies in a row from 14th sealed the issue.
The win makes Kanaya, the second Japanese after Hideki Matsuyama to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur, but it was the third time Japan was taking the title with Matsuyama winning twice in 2010 and 2011.