Lin books golden ticket

The Dominion Post - - Sport | Family Notices - MARK GEENTY

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.’’

PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

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.

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