Flying in from different parts of the world, the six-member Indian team on Tuesday assembled for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championships, which has now become one of the most watched global Amateur Tournaments.
The six-man Indian team comprises Rayhan Thomas, Rigel Fernandes, Priyanshu Singh, Viraj Madappa, Yuvraj Sandhu and Kshitij Naveed Kaul will tee for the main event from Thursday at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.
Rayhan Thomas, who is making waves in Middle-East having won a pro event on MENA Tour, is coming from Dubai, while Priyanshu, Madappa and Fernandes flew in from US and Naveed Kaul and Sandhu came in from India.They may not have played at the Nicklaus Golf Club, but each one of them has seen the course on television.
“Oh, I saw the Presidents Cup, when Anirban Lahiri played in it and became the first Indian,” said Rigel Fernandes, an who is brought up in the Middle-East but who now studies in University of Florida.
“That last putt was a heart-breaker,” recalled Fernandes, who played the Asia-Pacific in 2014 ad finished tied 15th.
There is no mistaking that each one of them wants to follow in Lahiri’s footsteps into the PGA Tour.
Madappa, who is looking forward to his college golf in the US, became the first Indian at the prestigious Porter Cup last year. Priyanshu Singh, who played the Asia-Pacific last year, and then won the All India Amateur Championships in December, has now joined Fernandes in South Florida, after spending time at Nova South Eastern.
“It is a lovely course. We enjoyed it in practice and hopefully will do well,” he said. Madappa, who came in from Houston, where he has joined University this year, is still waiting for his bags and he simply walked with his teammates in practice.
Among top contenders this year will be the Australians and the Chinese. Leading the pack is Curtis Luck (world amateur No. 2), who last month won the individual honours in World Amateurs in Mexico, and then led his team to another title. Teammate Cameron Davis is looking at going one better than second place, where he was when rain forced cancellation of final round, leaving Cheng Jin of China as the winner. Also here are other Australians, Harrison Endycott, Anthony Quayle, Travis Smith and Brett Coletta.
Defending champion 18-year-old Jin is back for another crack at the title and emulate Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama as the only player to retain the title.Before Jin, another Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang won the title in 2012.
Jin, now a freshman at University of Southern California, and 17-year-old Guan Tianlang, the 2012 champion, are both playing in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship for the fifth straight year.
The pair are leading members of a seven-strong China contingent that also includes event debutant Andy Zhang, the third member of the team with major championship experience, having played in the 2012 US Open when he was 14.