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Mizuno

Makes History Shinichi becomes the third junior golfer in a row to win the prestigious Close title and thereby earn a return journey to Fanling for December's UBS Hong Kong Open REPORT BY ALEX JENKINS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL WONG

T

h ere's a lot to l i ke about Shinichi Mizuno. The 17-yearold West Island School student is friendly, unfalteringly polite and eager to please – attributes that even extend to when he's on the golf course. He's not the type of junior golfer to throw tantrums or clubs. Like the majority of his peers, Mizuno eschews khaki trousers and solid pastel polo shirts for a far more trendy ensemble – and now that the wild Rory McIlroy-like mop that he sported during his mid-teens has been cropped to something rather easier to manage, he really does look the part. None of this would merit discussion if he wasn't much of a player of course, but Nagoyaborn Mizuno, who moved to Hong Kong as a six-year-old in 2000, can rightfully consider himself the best amateur golfer in town. Mizuno's win at the Montrose Fine Wines Hong Kong Close Amateur Championship over the Lunar New Year holiday, where he bested the heavily-fancied Max Wong in a gripping 36-hole duel on the final day, was evidence of how dependable a golfer he has become. Played in unseasonably warm temperatures, this year's Close was once again dominated by youth, with six of the top eight on the final leaderboard aged 18 or under. Mizuno became the third consecutive junior to triumph after Steven Lam's win in 2009 and Liu Lok-tin's runaway victory of 12 months previously, which speaks volumes about the success of the Hong Kong Golf Association's junior development programme led by national coach Brad Schadewitz. 64

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Wong Claims Mid Amateur Championship Max Wong's narrow loss in the overall championship was a slightly easier pill to swallow after he was crowned Mid Amateur champion following his fine play. Open to players over the age of 25, Wong's four-round total of 289 was 10 better than Jonathan Yeap, who finished second. Ronald Totton placed third, a further four strokes adrift.

Surprisingly, neither Lam or Liu made much of an impact at Fanling. Both got off to steady if unspectacular starts but faded late and were overshadowed by Mizuno, whose second-round 68 gave him a three-shot cushion over Wong, the danger man, heading into the gruelling final day. Liu was rewarded for his brilliant play over the year, however, by claiming the 2010-2011 Order of Merit title on completion of the event. Playing 36 holes in a day would seemingly favour the younger, fitter player but it was Wong, a Hong Kong Golf Club member whose savvy play has helped net him the last three club championships, who took the upper hand; a 72 in the morning was two less than his rival, which meant only one stroke separated the pair with a round to go. Mizuno, the only amateur to qualify for the UBS Hong Kong Open last November, wasn't giving up lightly however. Falling behind Wong for the first time after his opponent birdied the sixth, the junior put on a great display and managed to recapture his lead early on the back side thanks to nearly flawless golf. Maintaining his nerve, Mizuno played steadily, recording a succession of pars, which Wong could only replicate. A wonderful bogeysave a the sixteenth, after he found the greenside HKGOLFER.COM

bunker in three, narrowed the gap but in the end a long-range two-putt on the final green earned him both the title and a return to the UBS Hong Kong Open in December. "I'm really proud of the way I played, it was tough out there," said Mizuno, whose final round of 71 was only bettered by another junior, Terrance Ng, who had a superb 69, and Ronald Totton. "I knew Max would come at me – he's a great player – but I was able to make the shots I needed to hang on. It's a wonderful feeling to be the Hong Kong Close champion." Turn to page 66 for more images.

Final Standings 1 2 3 4 5= 7 8 9=

Shinichi Mizuno Max Wong Terrence Ng Adrian Leung Steven Lam Jonathan Yeap Oliver Roberts Ambrose Tam Ronald Totton Tang Kei-hin

74 68 74 71 74 71 72 72 73 74 74 69 74 76 74 74 73 75 74 77 70 73 75 81 76 75 76 74 75 77 75 74 77 75 81 70 74 74 80 75

287 289 290 298 299 299 301 302 303 303

Fanling Favourites (from left): Mizuno celebrates upon holing the final putt; posing with the silverware; Max Wong was crowned Mid Amateur champ; Liu Lok-tin wasn't at his best during the tournament but was rewarded for his fine play throughout the year by claiming the Order of Merit title HK Golfer・APR 2011

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A blend of youth and experience (clockwise from top): Down, but not out; Adrian Leung finished in fourth spot; Terrence Ng showed his potential with a finalround 69; Steven Lam had a surprisingly quiet tournament; Oliver Roberts showed flashes of brilliance; Jonathan Yeap took the first-round lead; Mizuno's short game was in fine fettle throughout the week.

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