MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian teenager Antonio Murdaca clinched a dream berth at the U.S. Masters after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with a stunning seven-stroke win in Melbourne on Sunday.
The Adelaide-born 19-year-old tore up Royal Melbourne’s famed sandbelt course to upstage a field dripping with Asian talent, including China’s Guan Tianlang, who won the 2012 event to become Augusta’s youngest ever qualifier at the age of 14.
A two-time national junior champion, Murdaca took an eight-stroke lead into the final round and gave his opponents no hope as he carded a one-under 71 on a sun-drenched day to finish with a 13-under total of 275, seven ahead of Japan’s Horikawa Mikumu.
“I‘m so happy, I‘m over the moon right now,” the stocky Murdaca told Reuters after punching the air upon sinking his last putt and embracing his caddie.
“Can’t wait to speak to my parents. I‘m sure they’re just like me, so excited and happy.”
Making his first appearance in the tournament, Murdaca was ranked ninth of the 10 Australians in the field but upstaged his more-fancied compatriots to also secure an exemption into the final stage of qualifying for the British Open at St. Andrews.
”Some of the other boys out there (today) are great players,“ Murdaca said. ”I was hoping one of the Aussies would take it out so it’s pretty cool.
“(The British Open) would be awesome to qualify for. I played St Andrews earlier this year, so I reckon I might have a chance there.”
Guan underlined his enormous talent by making the cut at the 2013 Masters and finished as the tournament’s leading amateur, but had to settle for a tie for fifth on 286 at Royal Melbourne with compatriot Dou Zecheng and Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-Tsung.
”I had fun this week,“ Guan, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Saturday, told Reuters after battling at times to read the course’s flint-hard greens. ”Royal Melbourne’s a different kind of course from China and the U.S.
“It’s good experience.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly