Thomas, Kartik chase Masters, Open dream through Asia-Pacific Championships
Shanghai: Rayhan Thomas, who missed out on becoming the first Indian to win the Asia Pacific Amateur Championships by two strokes last year, will be back at the premier event, which gives amateurs a chance to gain a spot at two Majors the Masters and the Open in 2020.
Thomas is now a freshman at the Oklahoma State University, whose recent graduates, Mathew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, have been the stars of the PGA Tour in recent months.
The Asia Pacific Amateur Championships are scheduled to start on Thursday. The winner gets a shot at the Majors.
Thomas is featuring in the event for the fourth time. He was T-29 in 2016 Incheon; T-35 in Wellington, and T-2 last year in Singapore.
"I need to win this event at least once before I turn pro," said Thomas. "It is one of the great amateur events and one of the most prestigious ones."
Last year's winner Takumi Kanaya will be back to try and retain the title and emulate Hideki Matsuyama, who is the only player to have won the AAC twice.
This year Thomas will be joined by five other Indians and one of them is West Bengal-born and Gurgaon-based Kartik Sharma, who made a great run for a Top-10, but eventually finished T-13.
Since then Sharma has won the New South Wales Amateur and earlier this month was named in the International Team for the Junior Presidents Cup to be held in Melbourne in December. The first Indian to make the Junior President's Cup was Thomas in 2017.
The other four Indians include Delhi's Harshjeet Singh Sethie, who recently played the pro event at Classic Golf and Country Club International on Asian Tour, Karnataka's GN Basvaraju, Rajasthan's Girraj Singh Khadka and Delhi's Vinay Kumar Yadav, who played the AAC last year also.
The Asia Pacific Amateurs have in the past seen many young talented Indians make a start. Rashid Khan, Khalin Joshi, whose T-9 was the best Indian result before Thomas' runner-up last, Viraj Madappa, S Chikkarangappa and Aman Raj among others have played the event in the last few years.
The big international stars in the field of 120 at the AAC are World No.4 David Micheluzzi and No. 11 Blake Windred, both from Australia, as well Chinese Taipei's Chun An Yu, who is ranked No. 9.
Thomas is feeling confident after having joined Oklahoma State University, which has thrown up stars like Matthew Wolf and Viktor Hovland, who within a year of turning pro after college made it to the PGA Tour. Wolf has already won on the PGA Tour, while Hovland earned his card through the Korn Ferry Tour.
"I've only been on campus for a month and I am enjoying every minute of it. We recently had a get-together of our alums for the OSU Cowboys Pro-Am, and it was fun catching up with guys like Rickie, Viktor and Matt," he said.