Twenty-two-year-old youngster from Hiroshima, Takumi Kanaya, has scored himself a special place in golfing history as the first Asian to win the Mark H. McCormack Medal, an award that is presented annually by The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) to the leading player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR).
Following a joint fifth-place finish in the Japan Golf Tour Organisation’s (JGTO) Fujisankei Classic last weekend, the senior at Tohoku Fukushi University guaranteed himself top place in the global amateur standings.
It was an especially remarkable effort from the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner, whose appearance at the Fujisankei Classic was his first competitive tournament outing since he finished third in the Emirates Australian Open in early December.
Three weeks prior to that, Kanaya became only the fourth amateur to savour victory on the JGTO, winning the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters.
In other notable performances in the past year, he was edged out by China’s Lin Yuxin in a sudden-death playoff at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Shanghai’s Sheshan International Golf Club, and tied for 40th in the Japan Open Golf Championship.
Earlier in 2019, he made the cut in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National and qualified for the match play phase in the US Amateur. In 2018, Kanaya finished second individually at the World Amateur Team Championship for the Eisenhower Trophy in Ireland.
While speculation mounts as to when Kanaya will turn professional, he is already preparing for his next assignments – an appearance in next week’s US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club and the defence of his Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters title in mid-November.
Among notable past winners of the Mark H. McCormack Medal are New Zealander Danny Lee (2008), American Patrick Cantlay (2011), England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick (2013) and current world number two Jon Rahm of Spain (2015).
The award is named after World Golf Hall of Famer Mark McCormack, the founder of IMG and an avid supporter of golf.
Born in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Kanaya began playing golf at the age of five. As a junior he won numerous competitions before announcing his arrival on the national stage with victory in the 100th edition of the Japan Amateur Championship in 2015. Later that year he was 11th in the Japan Open, finishing as the low amateur. From that point, he has not looked back.
Taimur Hassan Amin, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, said: “Congratulations to Takumi. To be ranked as the number one amateur in the world and to win the Mark H. McCormack Medal are fabulous achievements.
“Those of us who have seen his performances at the past two Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships know what an exceptional talent Takumi is. We wish him well in the US Open next week and look forward to seeing his continued success in the months and years ahead.”
Tsunetada Takeda, Chairman of the Japan Golf Association (JGA), said: “On behalf of the JGA, our most sincere congratulations to Takumi, becoming the first Japanese player to earn the prestigious McCormack Medal.
“He has represented the JGA as a national team member in an exemplary way and we’ve already watched Takumi win on the Japan Golf Tour as an amateur player.
“We have always admired his poise, talent and passion for the game and look forward to continuing to watch his golf career blossom in the future.”