Golf

Masters' dream comes true for Kanaya

20-year-old Japanese takes title by two, also gains spot in The Open

At one stage, five players were in title contention, within two shots of the leader Keita Nakajima.

And while expectations were raised for a play-off finish, flashes of lightning disrupted play for almost an hour.

But when play resumed in a light drizzle, Japan's Takumi Kanaya dispelled all those thoughts with a hat-trick of birdies that put him in comfort zone with a three-shot lead going into the penultimate hole for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

His brilliant birdies on the 14th, 15 th and 16 th holes at Sentosa's spruced-up New Tanjong course took the fight out of rivals. And despite a bogey on the difficult 162-metre par-three 17th, Kanaya, 20, cruised to the title with a two-shot victory.

His prize: Entry to two of golf's four Majors next year - the US Masters at Augusta and the British Open at Royal Portrush in Ireland.

His immediate reaction after sinking a six-foot putt for par on the par-four 18th hole for those Major prizes: A pump of his right fist, a slap at his caddie's palm and shedding tears of joy as his teammates and friends sprayed champagne on his sweaty body.

He congratulated me. Looking at how Hideki supports me, I would like to play as good as him. Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner Takumi Kanaya, on receiving a call from Japan’s top pro Hideki Matsuyama

Kanaya, who beat countryman Nakajima (67), also the Asian Games champion, and India's Rayhan Thomas (66) with his composed five-under 67 for a 13-under 267 total, said: "This is simply like a dream. When I was a little kid, I really dreamed about going to the Masters. It's a dream come true."

When coming off the course, Kanaya received a call from Japan's top pro Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific event.

Kanaya said: "He congratulated me. Looking at how Hideki supports me, I would like to play as good as him."

Among the band that accompanied Kanaya over 18 holes yesterday was his physical trainer, also from the Tohoku Fukushi University, Takeshi Osaka, who praised Kanaya, saying: "He's a brilliant kid with lots of promise and loads of potential. He deserves the crown for playing steady golf over four days (69, 69, 64 and 65)."

If his main rivals could not raise their game when it mattered, one who suffered bitterly was China's defending champion Lin Yuxin, who collapsed with a 75 and finished tied-ninth.

Lin, who set the course record of 62 on Saturday, struggled yesterday and also endured the misery of playing his last six holes without a putter.

Frustrated with his putting, Lin, who had a one-shot overnight lead, wrecked his putter by hitting it against the ground, and used a wedge subsequently on the green.

Singapore's two leading players, Gregory Foo and Abdul Hadi, both of whom turned pro after the event and are set to play in the Asian Tour event in Pakistan starting this Thursday, had encouraging send-off rounds.

Foo, 25, shot a 67 to finish joint-ninth on 275 - his best finish in the event in eight outings since his tied-15th in 2016 - while Hadi, 23, returned a 69 to finish joint-19th on 278.

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