28 Oct 2023 | Amateur golf |

AAC: The United Nations of golf in our backyard

by Jimmy Emanuel

Randy Bintang

The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship came into existence in 2009 as a purpose built tournament from Augusta National Golf Club and The R&A to grow the game in the region it is named for.

Offering the winner a spot at the following year’s Masters and Open Championship, the honour roll reads as one would expect with the golfing powerhouses of Asia-Pacific – China, Australia, South Korea and Japan – the only nations to produce winners.

However, 14 years since its debut at Mission Hills in China the leaderboard this week at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club is a veritable regional United Nations, with 17 of the competing 37 nations represented over the weekend following the halfway cut.

This year marks the second time Australia has hosted the AAC, and yet again, Royal Melbourne has provided a stiff test for players who are unaccustomed to the unique challenges of Melbourne Sandbelt golf.

Chinese Taipei’s Chuan-Tai Lin, Wenyi Ding of China and Randy Bintang from Indonesia were among those who stood out through 36-holes.

Bintang, who fired a five-birdie round of 70 on Friday, is a fascinating case study of the ongoing success of the AAC and particularly its associated AAC Academy that provides coaching resources to national teams not as fortunate when it comes to funding and resource than nations like Australia.

Playing out of Jababeka Golf & Country Club, 30 minutes east of Jakarta, you would be hard pressed to find a golf course more starkly different to this week’s Composite Course.

Heavily tree-lined, with water on more holes than not, Jababeka’s comparison, or complete lack thereof, with Royal Melbourne might best be exemplified by the search on Friday to find anyone on the Black Rock property familiar with Bintang’s home club. Outside of World No.286 himself of course.

That search for detail included conversations with well-travelled golf photographer Gary Lisbon, and course architects Mike Clayton and Harley Kruse.

Despite yielding little on the course, the chase for information did reinforce the benefits of the event and quality of the play by Bintang and others.

Similarly to Jababeka not being high on the “must play” list of many, Indonesia have yet to produce many in the way of big name golfers. In fact, the country has just two golfers, one male, one female, who have been deemed worthy of a Wikipedia page.

Changing that is exactly what the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is all about.

On Sunday, he will be chasing the best ever finish by an Indonesian, with the mark of tie for 17th by George Gandranata in 2011 to beat.

The nations that have taken great advantage of the interest in the region by Augusta and The R&A in the past are featuring heavily with China, Korea and Australia leading the way, with newcomers New Zealand and Chinese Taipei.

Whoever it is that reaps the benefits sown by Augusta’s Green Jackets and The R&A’s members, will be a worthy champion.

And once again The Royal Melbourne Golf Club will have shown it is more than worthy for world class tournament golf, something the Asia-Pacific Amateur has become in quick time.

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