The 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was there for the taking on Sunday but a string of missed birdie opportunities on the back nine ended Blake Windred’s chances of victory.
The New South Welshman started the day in a four-way tie for the lead but fell as many as five shots off the pace after his first double-bogey of the week at the par-5 8th.
Windred continued to battle bravely from that point on, creating birdie chances on 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15 and producing a bunker blast on the par-3 12th that crashed into the pin but didn’t drop for a two.
Defending champion Takumi Kanaya, playing alongside Windred and in the group behind 2017 AAC winner Yuxin Lin, surged up the leaderboard with six birdies for the day, missing what would have been the winning putt on the 72nd hole to end up in a playoff with Lin.
Both players made gutsy birdies on the first sudden death trip up the par-5 18th, Kanaya drawing first blood with a 20-footer up the hill, before Lin clinched his second AAC title on the second playoff hole.
Windred eventually signed for a 4-over 76 to slip to 4-under for the tournament, six back of the 18-year-old two-time champ, in what is set to be his last outing as an amateur.
“I putted so good today, the best I’ve putted all week, the best I’ve felt all week and they just weren’t going in when I needed them to,” Windred said.
“So much learning done this week. I was there, so it’s not all bad.”
Windred shouldered a heap of expectation after Thursday’s historic 63 but couldn’t keep the field at arm’s length.
He’s headed to European Tour Q-School next month with a head full of confidence and a renewed outlook on what it takes to close out the biggest tournaments.
“This is what I want to do for a career so I’ve got to suck up the bad times because I was riding the wave early in the week and really making the most of the good times,” Windred said.
“That 9-under, still memories I’ll never forget. Still so many things I can take out of this week.”
The shining light on the weekend came from the youngest member of the team, with 18-year-old Karl Vilips notching a pair of 69s to finish as the top Australian.
Four birdies on the day, including gained strokes at 16 and 18, helped Vilips to an impressive 7-under total for the tournament.
While Vilips will be able to build on his T8 result in 2020, one man who won’t be at Royal Melbourne is World No.4 Dave Micheluzzi.
Sunday’s final round also marks the end of his brilliant amateur career, the 23-year-old bidding farewell with a 69 of his own to climb to 2-under and T15.
Also at that mark was Monash CC’s Nathan Barbieri, the 22-year-old piecing together a fine week in his debut wearing the green and gold.
Fellow Aussie debutant Jack Thompson finished two strokes further back at even-par in a share of 21st. The South Australian ran out of gas with a Sunday 74, but he too will already be looking ahead to Royal Melbourne next year.
Kyle Michel’s amateur career came to a close with a 78 in the final round, the Shepparton local now with his sights set on the second stage of European Tour Q-School next month.
Australia will have a bolstered ten players in the field next year by virtue of playing host.
What They Said… Hear from the Australians after the 2019 AAC