Lin books golden ticket
New Zealand crowds will get one more look at budding superstar Yuxin Lin before he embarks on his golfing dream at Augusta and Carnoustie next year.
The 17-year-old from China showed all his tricks in a three-shot victory over compatriot Andy Zhang in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, firing a course record final round of 65 at the redesigned Royal Wellington.
He was the third Chinese winner in the tournament’s nine-year history, but the first to gain direct entry to the Open Championship which was added by the R&A to the Masters Tournament exemption.
It was Lin’s second visit to New Zealand after a family holiday when he was a youngster, and he liked it so much that an invitation to contest the New Zealand Open near Queenstown in March will likely lure him back – a month before he has bigger fish to fry at Augusta National.
‘‘I will definitely come back for the New Zealand Open next year. It’s a really good experience and practice for me to play like big events, like big, professional events. I like it very much over here,’’ he said.
The left-hander’s sublime iron play gave no one else a look in, after he started the final round with a one-shot lead over Zhang and Australia’s Min Woo Lee.
On Friday he eagled his final hole, the par-four 396m ninth, when he chipped in. Yesterday, holding a one-shot lead over Zhang heading into the 497m par-five 18th, he ate up the pressure to hit a five-iron within 1.5m of the pin and hole the putt for eagle.
With 197m to the flag he wasn’t sure if five-iron was right, but he nailed it.
‘‘I thought it was a bit short, but it turns out it’s pretty good,’’ he laughed.
‘‘I was just trying to stay aggressive. I hit as many drivers as I can throughout the round, even though I was not hitting it that well for the first 12 holes, but I still stick with that plan.’’
Lin took up golf as a six-year-old when his father took him to the driving range in Beijing, and now he sits on the cusp of golfing fame and fortune. College scouts had already got to him and he’s set to start at the University of Southern California.
‘‘I’m very, very, very happy about I can get a chance to play these two majors. I’m actually very proud of myself to be able to do it. For next year, I think I will just try to enjoy as much as possible.’’
Lin (14-under 270) and Zhang (11-under 273) had the finish to themselves in a China domination which saw four of the first five in red shirts.
Australia’s big-hitting Min Woo Lee was tied for third on 277 with China’s Yechun Yuan, and Daniel Hillier finished strongly to be the best New Zealander on 279, tied for sixth after dual rounds of 68.
The Kiwis were solid without making a telling charge, as five of them finished in the top-14. Masterton electrician Kerry Mountcastle – ranked ninth of New Zealand’s 10 – capped an excellent week by finishing ninth, one behind Hillier.
Zhang, who moved to Florida with his family when he was 10 to chase a golf career, played some brilliant shots and fired dual 67s over the weekend but it wasn’t enough.
‘‘Yeah, we just played really good and that shows you how good China is getting at golf,’’ said Zhang. ‘‘We came in a little late but the next generation is coming up and China is going to be a big country up there with everyone else very soon.’’
A final round of 65 including an eagle on the last at Royal Wellington saw China’s Yuxin Lin lift the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship trophy yesterday.