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Golf: Jin Cheng, 17, books Masters date with AAC triumph in HK

Cheng Jin will play at the Masters three years after Guan Tianlang made history. Photo: AAC.

Cheng Jin will play at the Masters three years after Guan Tianlang made history. Photo: AAC.

October 4, 2015: Jin Cheng, 17, was crowned champion of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) – and booked a place at next year’s Masters – after Sunday’s fourth round in Hong Kong was cancelled.

 

A lengthy suspension in play, due to high winds and rainfall from a nearby typhoon, eliminated the possibility of play being completed before darkness.

 

The first group teed off as scheduled at 6:40 a.m. with nine groups making it on course for the start of round four. Play was subsequently suspended at 7:41 a.m. With conditions not improving by midday, Jin, the 54-hole leader at 11-under-par, beat joint runners-up, Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis of Australia by one stroke.

 

China’s top-ranked amateur had earned his place at the top of the leaderboard with a superbly judged chip at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club’s par-five closing hole on Saturday, from which he went on to secure a decisive birdie. The win means the Beijing native becomes the second player from China to lift the trophy following Guan Tianlang’s triumph in 2012.

 

“This win just came so fast and so sudden,” said Jin, who fired a course-record eight-under 62 on the first day followed by rounds of 68 and 69. “I was ready for the round today. Unfortunately the weather didn’t work out, [but] it’s my pleasure to win this week. Going there [Augusta National Golf Club] next year is just amazing for me. I’m so excited and looking forward to it.”

 

The teenager’s victory also earned him a place in The Open Qualifying Series, which offers the opportunity to progress to Royal Troon next summer for the 145th edition of the game’s oldest major championship.

 

By virtue of their second-place finishes, Ruffels and Davis, long-time friends and Australian teammates, will also receive spots in the series. Although Ruffels, the World No. 8 and highest-ranked player in the field, was clearly disappointed not to have had the opportunity to play on Sunday, the 17-year-old was full of praise for Cheng’s performance in a press conference he shared with Davis.

 

“It’s not hard to tell that we’re both pretty gutted,” said Ruffels, who narrowly missed a 12-foot eagle chance on the final green in the third round that would have put him 11-under.

 

“Obviously there’s nothing we can do about the situation. The tournament did great in just trying to get us out there today. [But] credit to Jin; he played amazing this week to back up eight-under with those two rounds in some tough conditions. He’s a great golfer and even better guy, and I’m sure he’s going to enjoy the experiences he gets from winning this tournament.”

 

Since its inauguration in 2009, the AAC has produced an impressive list of winners, including Guan and two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

 

Source: Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (www.aacgolf.com); Editing by SportAsia

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