Jasper Stubbs triumphs in playoff at 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship

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Jasper Stubbs (Photo: Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship)

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Australia’s Jasper Stubbs claimed an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne today.

The local favorite, who lives two miles from Royal Melbourne, triumphed on the second playoff hole over China’s Wenyi Ding and Sampson Zheng to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur trophy and secure a place in the 2024 Masters Tournament and The 152nd Open at Royal Troon next year.

Stubbs started the day six behind Zheng, the third-round leader, but used his experience in the Sandbelt and dealing with the blustery wind conditions to card a two-under-par round of 69 and finish with a one-over-par total of 285 for the Championship.

The 21-year-old becomes the fourth Australian winner of the Championship and follows in the footsteps of Antonio Murdaca, who won at Royal Melbourne in 2014, as well as Curtis Luck, who won in South Korea in 2016 and Harrison Crowe, who won last year in Thailand.

As a member of Australia’s national team, Stubbs had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot on Thursday in what was his debut appearance in the AAC.

For much of the day Stubbs was under the radar with all eyes on the leader Zheng, who set a new amateur Royal Melbourne Composite Course record with his third-round 65.

The 22-year-old, who was part of the winning Asia-Pacific team in the Bonallack Trophy in August, led by four at the start of the day but endured a nervy start with a double bogey six at the second. In warm but blustery conditions, scoring was difficult for the entire field, but the 22-year-old gained a shot back with a birdie three at the fifth.

Consecutive bogeys at the 11th and 12th reduced his lead over Ding to one but Zheng bounced back with a birdie three at the 13th, a hole he birded in each of the four rounds.

Ding, the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, recovered from a dropped shot at the par-3 third with birdies at the ninth and the 11th but saw a birdie putt slip past the hole on the 15th to keep Zheng stayed two in front.

Zheng’s par putt on the par-4 15th didn’t make the hole so his lead was back to one shot with three holes to play.

At this point Stubbs made his run with birdies on the 11th, 13th and 17th to move to within one shot of Zheng. Stubbs’ 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th came up short and he finished one over par alongside Ding.

In the last group, Zheng’s approach to the 17th found a bunker short and right of the green and his subsequent birdie putt veered away from the hole, leaving him with a four-foot par putt, which he missed, to fall back into a three-way tie for the lead.

On the 18th, Zheng’s approach found a front-right bunker. He splashed out to a few feet and did well to save his par and finish one over par to go into a playoff.

The playoff saw the players go back up the 18th. Stubbs played an approach to the back of the green about 20 feet from the hole and Ding followed him to similar distance on the back right of the green. Zheng’s approach went through the back of the green to leave him with a difficult downhill chip, which he put well past the hole. In a moment of huge drama, Stubbs and Ding both holed their snaking downhill putts for the only birdies on the 18th all day to continue in the playoff with Zheng eliminated.

On the second playoff hole, Stubbs once again found the back of the green and rolled a 60-foot putt down to a few inches from the hole. Ding’s approach found a bunker right of the green and he chipped to 20 feet, but his putt lipped out to leave Stubbs with a tap-in to claim the title.

Chinese Taipei’s Chuan-Tai Lin finished in a tie for fourth with Australia’s Max Charles at two over par. Kazuma Kobori from New Zealand was two shots further back in sixth and Anh Minh Nguyen achieved the best result ever for a Vietnamese player to finish in a tie for seventh with Malaysia’s Marcus Lim.

As well as an invitation to the Masters and an exemption into The Open, Stubbs receives an exemption into The 129th Amateur Championship at Ballyliffin in Ireland in 2024.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur field consisted of 120 of the top male amateurs from the Asia-Pacific region. The 2023 field features players from 37 nations, all competing to secure an exemption into The Open and an invitation to the Masters Tournament in 2024. The Championship was created in 2009 by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation in an effort to further develop amateur golf throughout the region.

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