WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Two big swings enabled Lin Yuxin of China to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur and earn his way into two big tournaments.
Tied for the lead with two holes to play, Lin hit driver onto the green at the 361-yard 17th hole at Royal Wellington Golf Club to set up a tap-in birdie, and then smashed a 5-iron into the wind from 216 yards to about 6 feet to close with an eagle and a three-shot victory Sunday.
The 17-year-old Lin closed with a 6-under 65 and earned a spot in the Masters and the British Open next year.
“I’m very, very happy I got the chance to win this event and play two majors,” Lin said. “I’m very proud of myself. It means a lot to me to play in the Masters and The Open next year. It’s a great experience.”
It was a big day for China, which had three players atop the leaderboard.
Andy Zhang, a sophomore at Florida who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open when he was 14, was leading most of the day after four birdies on the opening six holes. But he was even par the rest of the day, losing the lead for the last time with a bogey on the 15th hole.
He couldn’t keep up with Lin at the end. Zhang, the top-ranked amateur in China, closed with a 67. He earned a spot in the Open’s Final Qualifying Series next year.
“For Lin Yuxin to finish 3-3-3 and to match the course record, you can’t really argue with that,” Zhang said. “He played very well and I needed my best, but I didn’t have my absolute best.”
Yuan Yechun of China closed with a 68 and tied for third with Min Woo Lee of Australia, who shot a 71.
Lin finished at 14-under 270. He became the third Chinese player to win in nine years of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, organized by Augusta National Golf Club, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation.
Jin Cheng, the 2015 winner, closed with a 65 and finished fifth. Guan Tianlang won in 2012 when he was 14 and made the cut the following year at the Masters.
Lin had reason to think this might not be his day. Starting out with a one-shot lead, he quickly fell behind Zhang and dropped two shots behind when Zhang birdied the 13th. Lin answered with a crucial birdie on the 14th to get within one shot, and when Zhang made his lone bogey, they were tied.
“I was definitely trying to drive it on the green at 17 and put some pressure on Andy,” Lin said. “On 18, I was going to hit a 4-iron because it was a bit into the wind, but then I thought it might roll over the green, so I hit a 5. I thought it was a bit short but it turned out that it was pretty good.”