To, Yeo and Zubair fly the Malaysian flag

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CHONBURI (Thailand): Isaac To, Anson Yeo and Zubair Firdaus ensured that the Jalur Gemilang would continue to fly during the weekend of the 13th Asia-Pacific (AAC) Amateur Championship by making the midway cut at Amata Spring Country Club yesterday. The three Malaysians are making their debut in the prestigious championship.

Leading the Malaysian challenge is 18-year-old To, who birdied five against two bogeys for a stunning 3-under 69. He climbed to the T24 spot on 3-under 141 (72.69), seven strokes behind the tournament leader. Bo Jin from China. Thai prodigy Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat sits in second place with South Korean Wooyoung Cho.

“I feel great. It’s a real honor to have been part of the weekend at my first AAC, playing against the best players in Asia-Pacific,” said To, a freshman at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in the United States.

“I didn’t start well, but I’m proud of how I recovered. My ball striking wasn’t great today so I had to do a lot of ups and downs and clutch putts. On the back nine, I managed to land a number of long birdie putts.

Note that he will only focus on shooting one shot at a time over the last 36 holes. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, just picking my target and hitting it, and not overthinking it.”

Yeo, who is currently the top male amateur in the country at 178th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), had a second straight 71 and is 33rd at two under par. He was 5 under for the tournament after 10 holes, but had to endure a nervous final eight holes which included three bogeys, a double bogey and an eagle.

“I’m very disappointed with my back nine because my game is actually in good shape, I just made a few mistakes here and there. I will be more aggressive over the weekend and hopefully land some putts and move up the rankings,” said the 16-year-old from Kuching, Sarawak.

Zubair, meanwhile, showed great determination when he birdied a clutch on his last hole to make the par cut on the number. He had made a double bogey on the 17th when his tee shot found water to the left of the island green at Amata Spring.

“I played well overall today, I only had two bad holes – I had a double on 15 and a double on 17, so that’s four shots already,” said Zubair, sophomore at San Jose State University in California.

“I know I’m capable of getting much lower scores and I still have two chances to do so. I’m happy to play this weekend because it’s my first time in the AAC,” added the 20-year-old.

Hariz Hezri (76, 72), Marcus Lim (73, 75) and Nateeshvar Ganesh (77, 72) failed to make the cut halfway, while Khavish Varadan was forced to retire after nine holes when he aggravated a chronic neck injury. Khavish was two over par for the tournament at the time.

“It’s called C8 radiculopathy, so the nerve is damaged. It’s intermittent – ​​some days I’m fine, other days it comes back. The doctor had advised me to rest but I really wanted to play in this event and then be done for the year, but unfortunately that was not the case. I am very disappointed,” Khavish explained.

“I’m going to have to go to therapy for a month and see how it goes. Luckily our next college event is in February so I have some time to rest and recover,” added the 22-year-old, who is a freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Khavish, Lim and Nateeshvar were making their second consecutive appearance in the AAC, having played in the 12th edition at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club last year. Khavish was then the only one to make the cut, finishing T18 at five under par.

The AAC was established in 2009 as a joint initiative to develop the game by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and the R&A. The champion receives an invitation to participate in the Masters Tournament and the Open, while the runner-up(s) earn a place in the Open Qualifying Series for the Open.

Malaysia’s best result in the AAC is seventh, achieved by Mohd Iszaimi Ismail in the inaugural event in 2009 at Mission Hills Golf Club in China and equaled by Ervin Chang in 2018 at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore.

Although no Malaysians have participated in the Masters tournament, two have participated in the Open – Danny Chia (2005, 2008, 2010) and Gavin Green (2018).

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