25 Oct 2023 | Amateur golf |

AAC golf: Guan aims to channel Smith wizardry

by Martin Blake

AAC golf Jeff Guan image
Leading contenders (from left) Kazuma Kobori of New Zealand, Bo Jin of China, Yuta Sugiura of Japan and Jeff Guan of Australia at the Yarra this week. Photo: AAC

Jeff Guan says his time with Cameron Smith on the chipping area at his Florida home this year will stand him in good stead this week as he prepares to lead the Australian assault on the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne.

Guan, the 19-year-old Sydney sensation, will draw upon the knowledge of one of the sport’s premier short games from Thursday’s first round, having travelled to the US as part of the Cameron Smith Scholarship in May.

The 2022 Open Champion Smith took his scholarship-holders Guan and Joseph Buttress on to the front lawn and put in five hours with them, an experience that Guan described as “amazing” today.

“Some of the advice he told me was definitely useful this week,” said the Sydney amateur.

“I mean, his lawn is cut so perfect, you wouldn’t believe it! He taught me everything, looked through my chipping style and tweaked it a bit. He helped me create more spin around the greens, which I think should help me here.”

In the wind at Royal Melbourne composite this week, Guan is more than likely to need some cooperation from his wedges.

The two-time Australian Boys champion could be either a few days away from a spot in the 2024 Masters and the Open Championship, or alternatively from turning professional.

If he wins this week, he will get starts in those majors as well as the Amateur Championship in Britain, but if he does not, he is likely to play for prizemoney for the first time at the Queensland PGA Championship at Nudgee. “It’s not yet stuck, but it’s looking that way,” he said.

New Zealander Kazuma Kobori is in the same position; he will hold on to amateur status should he win the AAC and take up his major starts, but if not, he is turning professional and playing at Nudgee.

“It’s a win-win situation for me,” he said. “If I win this week, I get to have the privilege of playing two major championships. If I don’t, I get a headstart on my professional career.”

Guan disputed the notion that the 13 Australians will be under pressure to perform at home.

“I don’t think it should be any pressure,” he said. “At the end of the day everyone’s got to play this course.”

Melbourne’s spiteful weather continued yesterday with wind and heavy rain, but is forecast to improve for the 72-hole tournament.

The Australians are strongly favoured with their home advantage, but they will have to get over the top of the likes of Kobori, who was the top individual player at the World Amateur Teams Championship in Abu Dhabi last week and who won the Australian Amateur at New South Wales earlier this year in conditions that equate to what he will see this week.

Kobori has a strong history in this country; when he won the Victorian Junior Amateur in 2017, he stayed with current Royal Melbourne Head Professional Richard Hatt whose advice was forthcoming.

Hatt told him to keep the ball under the hole as a priority, and he has not forgotten that advice. “I’ll definitely be using that advice this week.”

The Australian team was extended from 12 to 13 today with the addition of Melburnian Connor McDade, the beneficiary of a withdrawal by Malcolm Ting of Malaysia.

The host nation automatically is given 10 starters, but three more have been added this week.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship owned and operated by the R&A and Augusta National Golf Club will be telecast live on Fox Sports starting at 4pm today AEDT. ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP

-120 players, 72 holes stroke play -Royal Melbourne (composite) -Live on Fox Sports Australian first-round tee-offs: 7.30 Jasper Stubbs 7.52* Connor Fewkes 8.03 Jake Riley 8.58* Lukas Michel 12.30 Jye Pickin 12.30* Quinnton Croker 12.41 Billy Dowling 12.41* Max Charles 12.52 Harry Bolton 1.36pm Connor McDade 1.47 Jeff Guan 1.47* Harry Takis 2.09 Jack Buchanan * 9th tee

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