Rayhan and other Indians start at AAC, dreaming of a spot in Masters
Singapore, Oct 2 (PTI) Eyeing a spot at the coveted Augusta Masters, Rayhan Thomas will lead the Indian amateur team at the 10th edition of the much-awaited Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships, the strongest amateur event in the region.
The event has the best rewards for amateurs in this part of the world with the winner assured of a start in both the 2019 Masters and 2019 The Open at Royal Portrush in Ireland.
Thomas, the 19-year-old Dubai-based golfer, leads the six-member Indian squad, which was chosen by the Asia-Pacific organisers on the basis of their World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The other Indians in the field are Kshitij Naveed Kaul, Kartik Sharma, Varun Parikh, Yuvraj Sandhu and Vinay Kumar Yadav.
Three of the six Rayhan Thomas, Yuvraj Sandhu and Kshitij Kaul are featuring in their third Asia-Pacific event, while Kartik Sharma, Varun Parikh and Vinay Kumar Yadav are making their debut in this storied annual event.
Of the six, Sandhu plans to turn pro after this outing and will play on the Indian domestic Tour to start with.
Thomas, who is often seen as the best emerging talent from India, recently finished T-13 at the Asian Games, but was very disappointed at not being able to get onto the podium.
He said, "I am really looking forward to this tournament. It is my third year playing the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and I have played well before, but I do like my chances this year. It is one of the biggest events we play as amateurs every year and I want to be in contention come Sunday afternoon."
Thomas, who joins the Oklahoma State University next year, recently shot a 9-under par round, the lowest of the tournament at the World Amateurs in Ireland.
"It would be awesome if I arrive at OSU (Oklahoma State University) as the AAC champion and having played at The Masters and The Open. It would definitely give me some bragging rights.
"I am looking for a W (win) but a high finish will also be so good for my confidence when I start playing college golf in the US," said Thomas, who became the first Indian last year to reach the semi-finals of the US Junior Amateur.
Thomas was T-29th in 2016 in Korea and T-35th last year in Wellington, New Zealand, while Sandhu was T-38th in 2016 and T-60th last year. Kaul was T-42 in 2016 and missed the cut last year.
Only one Indian has finished in the Top-10 and that was Khalin Joshi, now a promising pro on the Asian Tour. He was Tied-9th in the 2010 edition in Japan, and the next best has been S Chikkarangappa, who was T-12th in 2012 at Amata Springs, Chonburi in Thailand.
Only four countries have produced winners at the Asia-Pacific Amateurs with China leading the table with three winners.
Last year they made a clean sweep of Top-3 places, though Australian Min Woo Lee was Tied-3rd.
Australia, Korea and Japan have won twice each, though for Japan, the winner was same, Hideki Matsuyama, now one of the top pros in the world