New Delhi: Rayhan Thomas, who came agonisingly close to winning the biggest prize for an amateur golfer in the Asia-Pacific in 2018 will be back for another shot at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. Thomas, who turns 24 in December this year, leads the seven-member Indian squad for the 2023 edition of the AAC at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club from October 26-29.
His teammates are Kartik Singh, Shaurya Bhattacharya, Raghav Chugh, Krishnav Nikhil Chopra, Vedant Sirohi and Yuvraj Singh. Four of the Indians have been playing college golf in the US and the rest have considerable international experience. Thomas, Chugh, Chopra and Sirohi have been playing college golf in the US. The other players have been playing well on the domestic Indian Golf Union circuit and risen in world rankings.
Thomas, Bhattacharya and Chopra were also part of the Indian team in Chonburi in 2022. Thomas who played four times in a row from 2016 to 2019 and then returned to the team in 2022, will be making a sixth appearance.
The hugely talented Thomas, who won a pro event in the Middle East, when he was just 16 in 2016, also equalled a world record by holing nine birdies in a row at the same course, the Dubai Creek a year later. He also has a round of 61 to his name.
The highlight of Thomas’ appearances at the AAC was in 2018, when he played 65-66 on the weekend, only to be outdone by the eventual winner, Takumi Kanaya of Japan, whose 64-65 in the final two rounds won him the title by two shots.
Thomas had said, “It is my biggest goal to win the AAC once before I turn professional and I will keep trying.” Now he is back for another shot at the title.
Thomas’ runner-up apart India’s best has been T-9 by Khalin Joshi back in 2010, when Hideki Matsuyama, a legend in AAC and Asian golf registered the first of his back-to-back wins at the event. Joshi, now a professional, will be playing at the 2023 Asian Games in China.
Chugh has recently had a couple of Top-3 finishes in college golf while Chopra is fresh from a couple of wins in India in junior events, the last of which he won by 16 shots. The son of former India cricketer, Nikhil Chopra, the youngster is making his second appearance at the event.
Sirohi has had a series of Top-10 finishes including a win late last year and one more early this year.
Yuvraj Singh and Shaurya have been among the Indian teams sent by the IGU for numerous international events and Kartik Singh has also been on the circuit.
The champion will receive an invitation to compete in the 2024 Masters Tournament and The 152nd Open, while the runner(s)-up will gain a place in Final Qualifying for The Open.
The field includes players from 41 Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) member organizations and the final field will have 120 players.
The field is highlighted by Japan’s Yuta Sugiura (No. 20 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking as of September 5), China’s Wenyi Ding (No. 22), New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori (No. 30) and Thailand’s Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat (No. 34). Additionally, the 2022 runner-up, China’s Bo Jin (No. 118) will also be making a return.
“The Asia-Pacific Amateur has always been one of my favourite tournaments on the calendar,” said Jin, whose older brother, Cheng Jin, won the 2015 Championship. In 2022, Bo finished runner-up to Harrison Crowe, after being third in 2021. It will be his fourth appearance.
Added, Jin, “I have had many fond memories at the event, with last year being the closest to winning. That experience gave me a lot of confidence in my own game and helped me grow mentally and hopefully this year I can move one step further…a chance to play at the Masters and The Open would be the ideal ending to my college golf.”
Notable past competitors include 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, and 2022 Open champion Cameron Smith.