Japan Amateur champion claims final place in New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport

Japan’s Rintaro Nakano has earned final qualifying spot for the 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport at Millbrook Resort in Queenstown this week.

Rintaro Nikano has secured the final spot in the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport field, taking out the last Final Qualifying event at Cromwell Golf Club with a sensational seven-under-65 today.

The 101st-ranked amateur in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) and reigning Japan Amateur champion birdied his final hole of the day to beat the 39-player field who were competing for the final place in the field at Millbrook Resort this week, beating Kiwi Ryan Chisnall and Australian James Gibellini by a stroke.

He joins Australian’s Corey Lamb, Samuel Slater, and Andrew Evans, who got through at the Final Qualifying event in Australia, as well as Jared Edwards and John Um, who got through Final Qualifying at Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club last week.

Following seven birdies and a bogey, he stood on the 18th tee at six-under-par, tied with Chisnall and Gibellini, who had already finished. Nikano proceeded to pipe a drive down the right side of the fairway, hit an eight iron to a flag he couldn’t see to just under three feet, and rolled the birdie putt in to punch his ticket into the field of New Zealand’s national open.

He says he’s ecstatic to have won the last qualifying event.

“When I arrived, I didn’t think I was going to win. I just thought I would try my best and see what would happen, and I won!

“I knew on 18 what I needed to do. We were doing digital scorecards today, so I was able to check the leaderboard. I knew if I made a par, I would be in a playoff. So I tried hard to make a birdie, and I’m happy I did.

“I’m going to try my best at the New Zealand Open this week.”

The 20-year-old is no stranger to competing on some of golf’s big stages, having played in several Japan Tour events and, more recently, the Sony Open in Hawaii on the PGA Tour. His best performances in a professional tournament included tie for 15th at the Fujisankei Classic and a tie for 18th at the Vantelin Tokai Classic, both on the Japan Tour.

He travelled to New Zealand six weeks ago for the second time to learn English and practise ahead of the Final Qualifying event today.

He is the fifth amateur to qualify for the New Zealand Open, which is the third major event on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, jointly sanctioned with the Asian Tour and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour. It is the Tour’s penultimate event, offering a prize purse of NZ$2m and quadruple-weighted Order of Merit points as the battle for three DP World Tour cards heats up.

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