To win the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur, Yuxin Lin needed to learn quickly a skill mastered by most champion golfers: how to forgive and forget.
The 18-year-old from China, winner of the championship in 2017, held a one-stroke lead at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai as he played the par-5 18th on Sunday. After birdieing the home hole during Thursday’s first round, the lefty made a bogey and double-bogey there on Friday and Saturday. It would be more ugliness on Sunday when, trying to play safe and lay up on the hole with his second shot, he put his ball into the water en route to a bogey 6.
The mistake dropped Lin to 10-under par for the tournament after shooting a closing 68 and allowed defending champion Takumi Kanaya to force a playoff when he made par in the group behind Lin for a 69.
“That hole is definitely not my friend,” Lin said.
If Lin’s frustration wasn’t already high, he had to absorb the fact that the first playoff in the 11-year history of the championship – put on by officials with the Masters and the R&A – required returning to the 18th tee. But Lin regrouped. After Kanaya holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the first sudden-death hole, Lin followed by rolling in a 10-footer for birdie to extend the playoff. And when they played the 18th once more, Lin got up and down from a greenside bunker for another birdie that secured victory.
“It feels amazing,” said Lin, who earned a spot in the 2020 Masters and the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s with the win while becoming just the second two-time champion in AAC history. “To be able to get back to Augusta and the British Open… I’m a little bit speechless at the moment. It’s a great feeling.”
Kanaya, a 20-year-old from Japan, had taken over the No.1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking on Wednesday and was trying to become the first player atop the ranking to win the Asia-Pacific title. He had an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in regulation that would have made him only the second repeat winner of the championship (joining Hideki Matsuyama in 2010 and 2011), but it burned the edge of the hole.
Lin was 114th in the world entering the championship but says that his game has evolved since winning the AAC two years ago at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand. For starters, he has learned how to contend – and win – even when his swing isn’t perfect.
“I didn’t have my ‘A’ game going this week,” Lin said.
But he took confidence that he could still play well, aided by having his father on his bag to keep his emotions steady. The memory of his birdie-eagle finish to win the AAC in 2017 didn’t hurt either.
“I was just trying to play some good golf out there,” Lin said. “I made some mistakes throughout the round but stayed patient the whole time.”