by Daniel HICKS, November 3, 2017
(AFP) - China's latest schoolboy golf sensation Lin Yuxin says it's "an honour" to play in the US Masters next year, but first he's got homework to do.
Left-hander Lin stormed to the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in New Zealand on Sunday with a birdie-eagle finish, securing a place at Augusta and at Carnoustie for next year's British Open.
"I think it's going to be a really great experience," said Lin Thursday, after shooting a fine two-under par 68 at the Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.
"It's an honour and I think it's a dream for every player to play in the Masters."
But the disciplined Lin couldn't hang around too long to chat after securing a share of sixth place in the first round at the PGA Tour China Series event with another 18th hole eagle. There were more pressing matters.
"I do a lot of my school work online during tournament weeks," explained home-schooled Lin, who only turned 17 three weeks ago. "There's just tons of academics to do."
Beijing-based Lin is in the middle of a five-week run of back-to-back tournaments that includes events on the European Challenge Tour, Asian Tour and PGA Tour China.
And later this month he will play with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Jason Day at the Australian Open.
It's a workload many seasoned pros would balk at, even without the added pressure of studying. But not this young man.
"Actually I had an online lesson last night at 7pm," he said. "I finished here at 6pm, the shuttle bus back to the hotel was at 6.30 so I didn't even have time for dinner."
- Mum's the word -
Lin was bitten by the golf bug when first taken to a driving range at the age of six by his dad in Beijing. But it is his mum who travels with him everywhere now and keeps the big-hitting teenager on the straight and narrow.
"She makes me do homework, yeah," said Lin, with a smile. "I mean that's her job, right?"
China's world number 66 Li Haotong predicted in Shanghai last week at the WGC-HSBC Champions: "In the next five years we will see a lot of young Chinese players on tour."
Right on cue, Lin became the third Chinese in five years to lift the AAC, following fellow teens Guan Tianlang in 2013 and Jin Cheng two years ago.
Jin was fifth at Royal Wellington on Sunday as Chinese players filled four of the top five places. Andy Zhang, who played the 2012 US Open when he was just 14, was second, with Yuan Yechun third.
Jin and Lin were playing partners again on Thursday, forming a formidable amateur double act high on the scoreboard as Jin shot a five-under 65 to lie one stroke behind leader David Lutterus of Australia.
- Augusta advice -
The 19-year-old Jin, who played at Augusta in 2016, had plenty of advice for Lin about how to handle his Masters experience.
"He gave me tons of tips," said Lin. "He told me just relax and enjoy the process.
"He told me it has a really tough opening tee shot and wants me to be careful," he said, before adding fearlessly: "But I'm still going to hit driver, obviously."
Lin struggled to pick who he'd prefer to be drawn with at the famous Augusta National.
"I don't really have a favourite," he said. "But if I have to choose I'd say Rory McIlroy. He has such a great swing, hits it really straight and far. He's my inspiration."
Lin had already caught the eye over the past three years as the leading amateur on the PGA Tour China Series, even before his exploits last weekend.
From 2014-2016, Lin made 11 cuts in 13 PGA Tour China starts and he finished as the lowest scoring amateur in all seven tournaments he entered in 2016, never missing a cut.
Not only that, he is often, as at Clearwater Bay, challenging high up the leaderboard on level terms with his professional opponents.
"The reason we all take notice is because he's an amateur," Greg Gilligan, US PGA Tour China executive vice-president, told AFP.
"That result at the Asian Amateur was just remarkable," said Gilligan.
"And while we are an international tour and we want all our players to do great, the developmental aspect of what we are doing in trying to popularise the game more here (in China) is significantly helped when these young Chinese men do well."