There's a lot to like about Shinichi Mizuno. The 17-year- old 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 Nagoya- born 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.
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.
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