Curtis Luck was fortunate enough to have qualified for the 2017 Masters Tournament after defeating Brad Dalke in the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2016. Two months later, he claimed the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship as well.
The winner of each tournament is invited to join the ranks of the best golfers on one of the best courses in the country as an amateur. Even though he already earned his invite to Augusta, Luck still remembers his win in the AAC.
“I was fortunate to play it two times and both times, some of the most enjoyable amateur events, even events in general,” Luck said. “… That opportunity comes very rare and if you have the opportunity to play the Asian Am, I think everyone jumps on it.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Asia-Pacific-region amateurs won’t get the opportunity to compete in this year’s AAC and Luck, who knew he was going to turn pro following the Masters, feels for the young players that will miss out.
“It’s obviously sad with everything that’s going on that they can’t host the event safely, it’s a real shame,” Luck said. “Players and amateurs in the Pacific region, it’s such an amazing event to compete in and what an amazing opportunity to contend and potentially earn yourself a Masters spot.”
The Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation announced Tuesday that it was canceling both the men’s and women’s amateur tournaments, meaning the 2021 Masters Tournament will be without a 2020 Asia-Pacific amateur champion.
Luck remembers just how important the AAC is in young players’ careers. Much like the U.S. Am Championship, Asia-Pacific amateurs qualify for the tournament based on their World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The AAC was established in 2009 with an aim to develop amateur golfers in the Asia-Pacific region. Qualifying for both the men’s and women’s amateur tournaments provides opportunities to play in larger tournaments.
Luck said his professional career wouldn’t be anything close to what it was had he not played in the AAC and had the opportunity to play in the Masters. He was grouped with Matt Kuchar and Danny Willett for the first two rounds in 2017 and finished the week in a tie for 46th.
“You’re never sure as an amateur how ready you are to compete with the best pros in the world. Standing on a tee box on a Thursday morning and standing alongside, in my case, Matt Kuchar … It definitely told me that I was ready to turn pro,” Luck said.
This year, Yuxin Lin will compete in the 2020 Masters, which was rescheduled, tentatively, for Nov. 9-15. Lin defeated No. 1 ranked amateur and defending champion Takumi Kanaya in a playoff in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in September 2019 to qualify.
Kanaya won the 2018 championship to qualify as one of six amateurs in the 2019 Masters and was one of four to make the cut. Hideki Matsuyama and Lin are the only two players in the tournament’s history to win two AAC titles.
Though Luck is now a professional, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship will always be special to him. It’s an event that even after being professional for three years, still ranks high on his list.
“It not only gives you a better opportunity to punch your way into Augusta, it’s just a fantastic event. They do such an amazing job running that event,” Luck said. “You get treated like royalty.”