Japan junior champion Kenta Konishi has a practice putt at Federal. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
It is a far cry from walking the fairways with Tiger Woods and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, but Japan junior champion Kenta Konishi hopes victory in the Federal Amateur Open Championship will be his next step towards the US Masters.
Konishi has always dreamed off teeing off at Augusta National in front of thousands of people at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. But first he wants to conquer the Federal Golf Course - which he thinks will suit him - over 72 holes, starting on Friday.
Konishi arrived in Canberra on Tuesday after competing in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand, and had his first taste of the local course at Thursday's pro-am. And not only did he enjoy it, but he was loving the wildlife - taking pictures of kangaroos and magpies as he went around the picturesque fairways.
Kenta Konishi with club cover of the japanese manga character Lupin III. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
He found the greens a bit ''firmer'' than what he is used to in Japan, which means some advice from Woods himself might come in handy over the next three days.
As an upcoming Japanese player, Konishi was chosen for a TV exhibition game that paired him with Woods against a couple of Japanese players. While the 18-year-old only played four holes with the world No. 2, he took the opportunity to pick his brains. ''I asked Tiger how to read the greens; what's the most important thing about reading the greens when putting?'' Konishi said. ''Tiger told me the most important thing is speed, just focus on speed and touch on the green, rather than direction.
''My stature is very similar to Rory McIlroy, so I feel even for my size I can achieve, and I felt I could learn a lot from the way McIlroy plays.''
In a similar event, he also beat McIlroy over three holes.
Konishi is the current Japan junior champion, having won the tournament three times, while he has also won the junior British Open and the Asian junior championship.
Federal officials contacted the Japan Golf Association about their tournament and Konishi put his hand up to come to Australia. Tournament director Col Tolano said he hoped many more Asian golfers would start playing in the tournament. ''We had French and English [golfers] play here, but it's a long way to come for just one tournament, so we're turning our focus to Asia, to invite teams out of Asia to come and, hopefully, with our contact with Japan there'll be more than one player here next year.'' .
Ninety amateur golfers are vying for the Federal title this weekend.
FEDERAL AMATEUR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
At Federal Golf Course. Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am. Entry is free.