On a blustery and occasionally showery day, the 22-year-old produced some fine golf to sit two shots ahead of the chasing pack.
Starting on the 9th tee, Kobori came charging out of the blocks with four straight birdies from the 10th. He added another at the par-5 17th to complete the back nine in 31. He then played solidly on the remainder of the front nine (the second half of his round,) carding eight straight pars for an 18-hole score of 66.
“It was a hell of a round. If you had given me 5‑under at the start of the day, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. Very happy to finish with a 66,” he said. “I rolled the ball pretty nicely on the greens, and I took advantage of the holes that were easy. You know, there's no easy holes out there but some are harder than others.”
Kobori's 66 matched the Royal Melbourne composite course record, set decades ago by the late Sir Michael Bonallack. The Kiwi was low amateur at the World Amateur Team Championship in Abu Dhabi last week. He has said that if he doesn't win this week he will turn pro. If he does win, he'll stay amateur until after The Open Championship.
Australia’s Jasper Stubbs who got play underway from the 1st tee, shot an excellent three-under par 68. The World Number 476 amateur who was New Zealand Amateur Champion in 2022 raced to the turn in 32. He reached four-under but bogeyed the last to post 68. A member at nearby Kingston Heath, Stubbs knows this course well.
“Yeah, I have a lot of friends who are members here, so I've come out since I was 14 or 15, and my younger sister was also the women's club champion. So I've played with her,” he said. “I had a lot of fun out there today. I enjoyed it.”
Stubbs was matched by South Korea’s Hyun UK Kim who had five birdies and two bogeys in his round of 68 and his fellow Australian Billy Dowling who eagled the 17th to also card a round of three-under-par.
The winner of the AAC earns a place in both The Open Championship and The Masters Tournament plus an exemption for The Amateur Championship, the runner up or runners up gain a place in The Open Qualifying Series. The top prizes are significant and can be life-changing for the individuals who secure them, but Kobori is trying not to think too far ahead.
“Obviously you can't win the tournament on the first day but you can kind of knock yourself out of contention pretty quickly,” he said.
The AAC was founded in 2009, a joint venture between The R&A, The Masters Tournament and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The event has played a significant role in growing the game in the region and around the world. 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is a two-time former champion and 2022 Open champion Cam Smith is an alumni of the event. Following the success of the early instalments of the AAC, further elite international amateur tournaments have been founded, including the Latin America Amateur Championship and the Women’s Asia Pacific Championship. The R&A announced earlier this year that the inaugural Africa Amateur Championship will take place in South Africa next February.
It was announced this morning that the 15th AAC will take place at Taiheiyo Club’s Gotemba Course in Japan. The 14th Asia Pacific Amateur Championship is being contested over 72 holes at Royal Melbourne, culminating on Sunday.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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