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Asian amateur golf championship designed to 'inspire, create heroes'

All Headlines 15:31 October 06, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- The fledgling Asian amateur golf championship being held in South Korea this week has been created to "inspire and create heroes," one of the event's organizers said Thursday.

The eighth edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) opened its four-day play at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, just west of Seoul. The event is co-organized by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and the R&A, which holds the Open Championship. The winner earns an invitation to the Masters the following year and a spot in the international qualifying round for the Open Championship.

At the onset of the event, Billy Payne, chairman of the Masters and its host course, Augusta National Golf Club, said one of the major goals of the tournament is to give young players someone to look up to.

"The fastest way to involve the community of kids and young people is for them to emulate and copy other people they admire," Payne said at the press conference at the club house of the venue. "It's a recipe that will work for every sport and we hope it will work for golf."

Payne pointed to the example of Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time champion of the AAC who went on to win twice on the PGA Tour.

"He is our most famous champion and his game has improved rather dramatically," Payne said. "There will be others from this championship who will go on to become equally as great as Hideki. As we develop great champions, other kids will be inspired, and they will see a game that they believe they can play. Inspiring and creating heroes is where we began and where we are today."

Organizing the AAC is part of the Masters' efforts to globalize the tournament, but the season's first major still has the smallest field among the four signature events in men's golf.

In 2016, only 89 players competed at Augusta National compared to 156 each at the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

Payne said he doesn't "expect (the field) to grow much more" because of reasons other than golf itself.

"The time of the year we play the Masters in early April, we have a limited day light coming out of winter on the east coast of the U.S.," Payne said of the course located in the state of Georgia. "I can assure you we tee off regularly the maximum number of players that can begin and finish in daylight hours."

David Cherry, head of the APGC, said the quality of play at the ACC has improved over the years, and in particular, players from countries with little golfing tradition, have made progress.

"The scores turned in by the best players are significantly higher than in the past, and there have also been significant improvements in the demeanor of the players," Cherry said. "They all have the dream of playing in this wonderful event, and they go back and tell other players what an outstanding event this was. For players from Cambodia, Laos and Bhutan -- not known as golf countries -- this is their chance to play at the Masters and the Open Championship."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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