CHONBURI, Thailand — Amata Spring Country Club just outside Bangkok doesn’t have much in common with the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. But the two do share one thing that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of even the most accomplished golfers. So it was that the island green at Amata—one reached only by boat—came to be where the 13th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was lost and won.
Armed with a one-shot lead and with the honor on that penultimate tee, Bo Jin hit the shot you just can’t hit. Short and left of its intended target, the ball was always headed for the inevitable splash landing. Taking his chance next, Harrison Crowe made no such mistake, his tee shot finding the safety of dry land, maybe 30 feet from the pin.
Double bogey for Jin and par for Crowe duly followed, swapping ownership of the one-shot edge. And when both made par on the 477-yard 18th it was over. The third Australian to win this title, Crowe shot a closing 72, his worst score of the week. But the 13-under-par aggregate with which he started the final round was just enough for the 54-hole leader to get things done. Only Jin, T-3 last year in Dubai and T-8 in 2019, was close. Another Aussie, Jeff Guan, and Ryuta Suzuki tied for third, four shots back.
Harrison Crowe's fellow Australians sprayed him with water after his victory at Amata Spring Country Club.
So it is that Crowe’s victory must go down as a something of a surprise, if only because his recent poor form did little to suggest trips to the Masters and the Open Championship were anywhere in his near future. Only last week he missed the cut in the Japan Open by “a fair few” before words of encouragement from former Masters champion, Adam Scott, provided much-needed consolation. Given that history, it is perhaps appropriate that Crowe’s level-par closing day was a mixture of poor and near-perfect. Out in three-over-par 39, he nipped home in 33, courtesy of a burst of four birdies in five holes starting at the 11th.
“I had to dig deep today,” said the new champion, 43rd in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking. “I was saying to my dad and his mate that all I needed on the back nine was for a putt to drop. I just needed one. And the birdie on 11 got me going. This means so much. I played so well early. But the middle of the season was a struggle. So it’s awesome to get this win.”
It was in doubt almost right to the end though. Crowe’s approach to the 18th green was “pulled but flushed” and escaped the water long and left by only a few feet. The chip was decent, finishing maybe three feet away. And the putt?
“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” admitted Crowe, who was planning to turn professional next week but will now, understandably, delay that switch by at least nine months, needing to retain his amateur status to enjoy the spoils of victory. “The putter wasn’t exactly staying still in my hands.”
There is, though, no doubting Crowe’s class. In March, the 21-year-old became only the second player after 1947 PGA champion Jim Ferrier to win both the New South Wales Open and Amateur titles in the same season. And even amidst his northern hemisphere struggles, Crowe managed a 10th-place finish in the Trans-Mississippi Amateur.
Indeed, Crowe will do well to continue tracking the distinguished career of Ferrier, who would win 18-times on the PGA Tour, eventually retiring to be club professional at the Lakeside Country Club in suburban Los Angeles. The Sydney-native played 15 times at the Masters, finishing in the top six at Augusta National seven times.
As for Jin, the lanky Oklahoma State junior was naturally disappointed at his ultimate failure to emulate the 2015 Asia-Pacific victory of his brother, Cheng Jin. But apart from the 17th apart, the 20-year-old didn’t do much wrong in a round highlighted by the bunker shot he holed for an eagle at the par-4 12. At that stage the native of China was three shots clear of Crowe, his nearest pursuer.
Playing in the final group with Harrison Crowe, China's Bo Jin was hoping to join his brother, 2015 winner Cheng, as a Asia-Pacific Amateur champion.
David Paul Morris
A little further down the board, local lad Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat finished his week with a double-bogey 6 that left him in a tie for 13th place on six under par. It was a sorry end for the 15-year-old who earlier this year won on the Asian Tour to become the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event. As ever though, he wasn’t short of things to say when it was over, his lack of preparation over the last three weeks getting most of the blame for a generally lackluster performance.
“It’s been a pretty terrible week,” said Chantananuwat, after signing for a closing 71. “Even in my best round of golf on the first day, when I played almost perfectly from tee-to-green, I was able to make only five birdies. That was disappointing. And the next three rounds have to be my most frustrating ever. I played barely any good golf. And every time I hit a bad shot, or made even a small mistake, I was punished. So it hasn’t been the best week.”
Harrison Crowe, gratefully, can say otherwise.