Fit-again Thomas leads 7-man Indian team to prestigious Asia-Pacific golf

THAILAND: Rayhan Thomas still has vivid memories of how close he came to making history at the 2018 Asia Pacific Amateur Championships.

He shot 4-overs on day one but fought back over the next three days to come within a hair’s breadth of the title that would have given him a start time at the 2019 Masters. He finished in second place alongside Keita Nakajima, who went on to become world amateur No. 1, and behind winner Takumi Kanaya, who is now making waves on the Pro Tour.

This will be Thomas’ fifth appearance with the AAC, which is his best second place finish and he’s made the cut every time.

Thomas, who is looking forward to the 2022 edition in Chonburi, Thailand, said: “I’m playing much better. The game feels pretty good. The Eisenhower Cup (amateur world team championship) was a lot of fun.

“Just before the postseason, I had a stress fracture in my wrist. So I started playing in early May. And the Eisenhower (Cup) was the first tournament I’ve played in four months.

“Considering that, Eisenhower has had a good trip. I’m now looking forward to playing in Asia Pacific again. i love thailand And I love Asia Pacific, they’ve done a great job where they are at their event. You know, hopefully it will bring back some good memories from 2018 like competing to win that year. So it should be a lot of fun.

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Thomas finished 11-under-269 at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club and finished second as Takumi Kanaya won the title. Thomas shared second place with Keita Nakajima, who went on to become world No. 1 amateur and recently turned pro.

Since 2018 Thomas, then living in Dubai, has moved to the US where he has a golf scholarship to the famous Oklahoma State University which has produced some excellent young stars including recently Viktor Hovland and the likes of Rickie Fowler in the past.

Back in 2018, shortly after the finish, Thomas had said: “This medal (second place) means a lot to me. That 4-over on day one was pretty discouraging but I’m very proud to have fought my way back from there and to be so close,” said Thomas. “I just didn’t score well because the putts (on the first day) didn’t come down.”

As he left that year, he said, “It’s good to know I can win that because I might have two or three tries left (the AAC).

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Now Thomas is back with some other Indian amateurs.

Thomas has a lot of experience playing in amateurs and alongside professionals. As an amateur in Dubai he even won a pro event and has also cut corners at big events.

Thomas will lead a strong seven-man squad at the 13th edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) to be played October 27-30 at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand.

The Indian team includes Shat Mishra, who has been very consistent at the home circuit; Milind Soni, member of the Indian team at AAC 2021 where he placed 41st, and Aryan Roopa Anand, two-time winner of the All India Amateur Championships, an event that is more than 100 years old.

The others are Krishnav Nikhil Chopra, who will soon be going to the US to play college golf and is the son of former Indian cricketer Nikhil Chopra.

Then there’s Dubai-based Arjun Gupta, winner of Abu Dhabi Amateurs 2000 and fifth in Kenya Amateurs, and Shaurya Bhattacharya, sixth in Dutch Amateurs, the others.

AAC has a strong heritage and amateurs love to be a part of it.

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Indian Rashid Khan, who has won twice on the Asian Tour and many times on the domestic Professional Golf Tour of India, vividly recalls the inaugural AAC at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China.

“For us amateurs, there was a lot of excitement leading up to the tournament,” said Khan. “We couldn’t wait to play an event involving Augusta National Golf Club and The R&A and have the chance to potentially play the Masters.

“We expected a lot, but when we got there we were blown away. From setting up the golf course to treating the players everything was so professional and of an exceptionally high standard. We had never experienced anything like this before. We began to long for more such experiences.”

The AAC was formed in 2009 as a joint initiative to develop the game by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A.

The winner of the event will be eligible to enter the Masters Tournament and The Open and the runner-up will receive a seat in The Open Qualifying Series for The Open.

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