AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – Amateur Takumi Kanaya made a birdie-birdie start Thursday in his Masters debut, allowing the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner to live a dream and top the Augusta National leaderboard.
The 20-year-old from Hiroshima bowed to reality by the end of the day, firing a one-over par 73 in his first round at the famed layout, but was still elated by the fairy-tale start.
“It was like a dream come true to start birdie, birdie and see your name on the board,” he said. “It was pretty neat.”
His superb start came after a touch of nerves as he reached the first tee in just the fifth group of the day.
“Compared to the practice rounds I felt nervous my first tee,” Kanaya said. “I pulled it left, made a good second shot into the green and able to make birdie. But, no, I was very nervous.”
He curled in a 15-foot effort over a ridge at the first to calm his worries, but a bogey at the par-3 fourth and back-to-back bogeys to begin the back nine set Kanaya back.
“There are many holes that you’re really nervous hitting the shots that are tough,” he said.
“I pushed my tee shot right on 11, but I was able to get through the holes.”
Kanaya responded with birdies at the par-5 13th and 15th holes but took a double bogey at the par-4 17th to fall back, although well within his goal for the week.
“I want to play good enough that I can make the cut and be able to get the low amateur,” he said.
Kanaya is staying at Augusta National this week in the Crow’s Nest, the clubhouse upper loft reserved for those who won’t be getting prize money.
“Only amateurs get to stay there, and so I think it was a good memory to have for later,” he said. “The guys that stayed in the Crow’s Nest, we took a picture together.”
Kanaya was in the 17th fairway but sent his approach over the green.
“Had two bad chips that caused a two-putt and double bogey,” he said.
Kanaya could be the next big star out of Japan, where he was the 2015 national amateur champion at age 17.
Last year in Singapore, he became the first Japanese player to win the Asia-Pacific crown since 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Hideki Matsuyama in 2011.