Asia-Pacific Amateur C’ship: Rayhan Thomas finishes tied-second

The 18-year-old ensured the best finish by an Indian in the 10-year history of the Championships.

Rayhan Thomas...“The second place means a lot to me.”   -  Getty Images

India’s Rayhan Thomas came close to creating history before finishing tied-second at the elite Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in Singapore. It is the best finish by an Indian in the 10-year history of the Championships.

The Dubai-based golfer (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 fellow Japanese Keita Nakajima (67).

Twenty-year-old Kanaya, who finished second at the World Amateur Championships last month days after being part of Japan’s Asian Games gold-medal winning team, 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.

Read: Yeangder Tournament Players C'ship - Viraj Madappa finishes fourth

While Kanaya earned the coveted spots for the 2019 Masters and the 2019 Open Championships, both Thomas and Nakajima saved a place for the final stage of the Open Qualifying Series.

Fruitful tourney for India

The tourney was sweet for India, too. Overall, it was India’s best-ever Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships with five of the six Indian players making the cut this week. Thomas was followed by debutant Kartik Sharma (70) at Tied-13, despite a bogey-bogey finish. “I am very proud and thrilled with the finish and I know I can compete with the best,” said Kartik, who plays at the DLF.

Yuvraj Sandhu (71) also dropped two shots in the last four holes and ended Tied-25; Kshitij Naveed Kaul (67) was Tied-38th and Varun Parikh (74) was tied 57th.

Memorable second-place

Thomas fought back from a disappointing four-over on the first day and was the only player in the top six 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 [to win],” Thomas said.

“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,” he added.

Overnight leader and defending champion, Lin Yuxin (75) had a disappointing day as he slipped to Tied-9th.

Filipino Lloyd Jefferson Go (69) was fourth in his last event as an amateur, while Thai K. K. 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.

Three birdies in a row

Kanaya started the day at tied-third 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. It was the third time Japan was taking the title, with Matsuyama winning twice in 2010 and 2011.