20 August 2019

Aiming High for Indonesia

This year has been a happy one for Kentaro Nanayama. The 16-year-old teenager has made several achievements he can be proud of. Starting off the year, Kentaro claimed his first international title at the JGTA Bogor Junior Championship, a Junior Golf Tour of Asia (JGTA) event, he followed it up with a second title at the Ciputra Golfpreneur Junior World, which is sanctioned by the JGTA, in June. His victories at these events earned him a ticket to play in American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events.

Sitting at T14 on the rankings at the AJGA Lake Las Vegas Junior in early June, the Jakarta Intercultural School student made an impressive leap to finish T2. Kentaro spoke to OB Golf about the improvement to his game, the experience at the AJGA, and his future in golf. 

When did you start playing golf? 
I first started playing golf at age seven. One weekend, my father brought me to Sedana Golf Club to try and play golf. At that age, I was quite competitive in baseball. Since the swings were familiar, my dad thought I may be good at it. The first time I played I was making contact with the ball almost every time. 

Why did you choose golf when others of a similar age typically choose football or basketball? 
I chose golf because it is more of an individual, long lasting sport. Something like basketball will only last until ones 30s. 

Do you still play other sports along with golf? 
I still play basketball for fun even though I stopped playing seriously at age 13. 

When did you start succeeding at golf? 
It was when I was about 11 years old where I started winning local junior events. 

When did you decide to get more serious about the sport? 
I chose to move my career to golf when I was 13. I knew that it was the right sport for me. 

What was your reason? 
I think it’s the fame that all the world-class players get. In addition, looking at the lives of successful golfers, they are always still in love with the game after they have retired which is something that shows me if you are really in love with the game, you will forever be. 

Your game has improved in the past year, why is that?
I have worked really hard on improving my game step by step. After every round, I would look at my stats to see which was the worst one. And for that day, my focus would be on that part of my game. 

Tell me about your school? 
I go to Jakarta Intercultural School and am currently in grade 11. JIS has provided me with all the academic opportunities for me to do well in my future university. 

How do you balance school and golf? 
Normally, I immediately go to practice after school. I will practice from around 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm. When I get home, I have dinner with my family then take a small break. At around 8:00 pm I do the school work I need to get done. Sometimes, when I have some free time in school, I get my work done so I don’t have a lot to do at home. 

What are your future plans for education and golf? 
Right now, I would like to focus on getting into a good university. From there, I would like to play for a good college team and then move onto professional golf. 

How did you get admission to play at AJGA events?
I was able to finish second on the JGTA Order of Merit. Then, I got a full exemption to play any AJGA event. 

You did great at Eagle Crest. How did you feel about your game there?
Very good. My ball striking was really good. However, I still have a problem with my putting. Then, I found out that my putter underwent a change when I was on my way to San Diego. The loft was down, from 5 degrees to 0 degrees. I think something happened at Portland International Airport. My golf bag was slammed, so it affected my putter.

How does the atmosphere of golf competition in Indonesia compare with that of the AJGA? 
It feels pretty similar. However, when we play an AJGA event, we know we are all competing to get recognized by colleges. In Indonesia, it is mostly doing well and getting a lot of points for WAGR.

How did you find the field there?
The field is much harder. In Indonesia, sometimes you can get away with winning by playing over par. In AJGA events, you have to be able to shoot a couple under par each round. A lot of the players are highly ranked on JGS and WAGR. A lot of them are also already committed to colleges.

How did you feel playing in a field as tough as the AJGA?
To me, the AJGA is just like any other event. I compete and try to play the best I possibly can.

What did you learn playing in that event?
I learned a lot. I think the most important thing would be how patient I have to be in order to play well.

And your results so far?
I made the cut. The cutline was around +4. I was T4 when the cut was made, then I finished T2 by the end. There were 75 boys who made it. I will play two more events (Enagic AJGA and US Amateur qualifier) before returning to Indonesia at the beginning of August. 

Do you a plan to turn pro? 
I would like to turn pro right after my college career. 

You are half Japanese and half Indonesian. So, do you have a plan to play golf in Japan one day?
No. I used to play tournaments in Japan when I was 11. It was only for fun. I just wanted to try playing golf in winter with snow. I love playing in Indonesia and I chose to be an Indonesian citizen. This is my home. I want to make something for my country. Someday, I want to be the first Indonesian to play in the highest level golf tournament.

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