Indian golf's Generation Next will be on view this week at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships, as a six-member squad tees off at the annual event that rewards the winner with places in two Majors, the Masters and The Open next year.
Joining India's No. 1 amateur Rayhan Thomas, who joins College golf in the US next year, will be Kshitij Naveen Kaul. While Thomas turns 19 next month, Kaul is still two months away from his 18th birthday but will be playing his third AAC event, just like Thomas.
Also playing his third AAC is Yuvraj Sandhu, who plans to turn pro soon after this event. The other three are Varun Parikh, 19, Kartik Sharma, 18, and Vinay Kumar Yadav, all playing their first AAC.
Rayhan Thomas, India's Number 1 amateur, has been paired in a marquee group with Chinese prodigy Andy Zhang, who played the US Open at the age of 14, and Australian Dylan Perry, who is currently ranked World No. 31 amongst the amateurs.
Thomas said, "The course is so good that you can even putt on the tee boxes. It is a great event and I have played twice before in it. Also the rewards of winning here are amazing. I have been in good form and the course looks like it might yield low scores, so I am looking forward to it."
Interestingly, all the three medallists from the recent Asian Games, led by gold medallist Japan's Keita Nakajima besides Korean silver medallist Oh Seung-Taek and China's bronze medallist Jin Cheng, the 2016 AAC winner, are also in the field.
In addition, Takumi Kanaya, a member of Japan's gold medal-winning squad at Jakarta and Zhang, member of China's silver-winning squad at Jakarta, are also set to battle it out alongside Korea's Kim Dong-min.
Thailand's Sadom Kaewkanjana, No. 11 amateur in the world and second highest ranked player in the field, has an Indian connect as he won the All India Amateurs in 2017. While China has four players amongst the Top-55, Australia will once again start as pre-tournament favourites with all their players within the Top-55 rankings.
The third-placed finisher in 2017 Min Woo Lee has the top billing at World No. 10 while David Micheluzzi is No. 13, the third lowest ranked player in the field after Lee and Thailand's No. 11 Sadom. The other Australians are Zach Murray (30), Dylan Perry (31), Shae Wools-Cobb (37) and Blake Windred (55).
In the previous nine editions of the championship, Australia has enjoyed two champions- Antonio Murdaca at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 2014, and Curtis Luck at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in 2016. China, on the other hand, has won the most titles having won 3 titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017 respectively.