New York, United States: Three former Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) winners are in the starting field at this week’s 120th US Open.
Joining the Japanese duo of Hideki Matsuyama and Takumi Kanaya at Winged Foot Golf Club is Australian Curtis Luck.
Between them, the trio have won the AAC on four of the 11 occasions the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation’s (APGC) showpiece event has been staged since its launch in 2009.
Matsuyama triumphed in 2010 and 2011, while Luck savoured success in 2016. Kanaya, currently number one in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), was victorious in the AAC in 2018 and runner-up in 2019.
Taimur Hassan Amin, the APGC Chairman, said: “I'm delighted to see such a strong presence from our region at one of the game’s Major championships.
“The fact that we have three former AAC champions lining up at Winged Foot is testament to the quality, strength and depth we are now seeing in golf across the Asia-Pacific. It is also a great source of encouragement to our current juniors to work hard and pursue this path which gives them the opportunity to play at the very highest level.”
While Kanaya and Luck are making their US Open debuts this week, for 28-year-old Matsuyama it’s an eighth start in a tournament he’s come close to winning. In his first US Open start in 2013 at Merion Golf Club he tied for 10th. In 2017 at Erin Hills he shared second place with Brian Harman after firing a final-round 66.
With 14 worldwide victories to his name, Matsuyama is already established among the game’s elite, a position that Luck and Kanaya are striving to achieve.
Since winning the AAC and US Amateur in 2016, Luck has found the going tough. However, he secured his ticket to the US Open after finishing third on the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Series, which included his first victory on the circuit in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University.
Kanaya, meanwhile, is still on a high after being named the recipient of the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the leading men’s player in the 2020 WAGR. Depending upon how he fares at Winged Foot, Kanaya may well turn professional in time for his title defence at the Japan Golf Tour Organisation’s Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters.
Joining Kanaya among the 13 amateurs at Winged Foot are Chinese Taipei’s Yu Chan-an and Australian Lukas Michel.
Yu, a fifth-year senior at Arizona State University, has two top-five finishes in the AAC to his credit – fourth in 2015 and equal fifth last year. This will be his third consecutive US Open start as an amateur after being among the top seven in the WAGR as of August 19.
For his part, Michel earned his first US Open start by winning the 2019 US Mid-Amateur last September at Colorado Golf Club, the first international player to win the championship for players 25 and older that dates to 1981.
There are two other Australians at Winged Foot with strong performances at the AAC on their CVs. Cameron Smith was fourth in Singapore in 2011 while Lucas Herbert placed equal fourth in China in 2013. Both now ply their trade professionally.