After his one-horse race, 16 shot winning margin at the South Island Amateur Champs at St Clair NZ Golf Magazine sat down with 19-year-old Kazuma Kobori to find out that this obvious talent is in no hurry to turn professional despite appearing to already have the game to do this.
Kobori moved to New Zealand when five years old but golf was not on the horizon then as he preferred riding motorbikes when he was old enough to do so. He started playing golf at the age of ten and his ability was quickly evident. Two years later he began playing seriously including spending some time with the NZ Golf Academy representing Titleist and Footjoy.
Kobori has steadily progressed his amateur career to date. During the last two years, he has played 41 events in New Zealand and overseas for eight wins and 25 top 10’s. Probably his best win was at the 2019 NZ PGA Champs when he left a professional field in his wake with four rounds in the ’60s. He was the first amateur to win the event and also regularly competes in Jennian Homes Charles Tour events.
He has had several top 10’s with a best of second at the 2019 Carrus Open. He also has top 10’s overseas with second at the Australian Boys Amateur a standout. The hallmarks of his game are his accuracy from tee to green and a dialled in putter, so we started by asking Kobori about his goals.
WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT TERM GOALS?
Hopefully, I would like to win a Charles Tour event this year. Last year was not a very good year for me. I played a lot of solid golf. I think I had 13 under par rounds but not many under 70. I need to go low so that is my goal, to shoot 6,7,8 under par to get in contention on the Charles Tour.
WHAT ABOUT LONGER TERM GOALS?
When I finish my University degree I would like to have my game in shape to turn professional.
ARE YOU LOOKING AT A US SCHOLARSHIP?
No. I might recommend it to others but not for myself. I decided to do a degree through correspondence with Massey University. They have a great program so that suited me.
HOW DOES GOLF FIT IN WITH THAT OR VICE VERSA?
Whenever I am away I can keep up with my studies which is a lot easier than if I was to go to the USA and have to do it around a full-on golf scholarship. I am not very good at my studies.
SO IT WOULD SEEM YOU WANT ANOTHER CAREER IN CASE GOLF DOES NOT WORK OUT?
Yes, I guess, in a way. Kind of a backup plan so I can give golf a real go. I’m studying course management. Pretty low key but it is interesting.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR OVERSEAS GOLF EXPERIENCES?
Yes, I have played quite a bit overseas. I got to play Torrey Pines which is one of the major courses. It is a lot tougher than New Zealand courses. I will have to get a lot stronger, as a -3 in New Zealand might only equate to even par over there. So I want to take that into consideration when I am playing here because the competition on the Charles Tour is still pretty good. Hopefully, I can get over to Australia later this year.
WHAT NEW ZEALAND COURSES DO YOU LIKE?
I have played The Hills on a very windy day which was pretty tough and have also enjoyed Millbrook.
SO WHAT TYPE, OF COURSE, SUITS YOUR GAME?
I found St Clair very playable score-wise for the South Island Strokeplay. (He won by 16 shots to prove that) The main difficulty for me is length. If the course is under 6,000 metres then I don’t have a great problem if I am hitting it straight from the tee. But for courses like The Hills and Millbrook which play around 6,500 metres, I have to hit it long and straight. St Clair suits me whereas Balmacewen (Otago Club ) is a little more difficult because it has more elevation. (He won the Otago Strokeplay there ). I think they are both very good courses and I am very much looking forward to the NZ Amateur Strokeplay at Balmacewen in November.
DO YOU HAVE A TIMEFRAME IN MIND FOR TURNING PRO?
Probably around 2022/23. We will see how Covid works out. Nothing is set in stone. I’m in absolutely no hurry because as long as I am an amateur I can play worldwide. But when I am Pro it will be harder for me to play in Europe and the USA. So I think I will stay amateur as long as I can and build up experience.
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU HAVE?
I’m supported by Titleist, Footjoy and both my clubs Rangiora and Pegasus, which helps me a lot. North Canterbury Sport and Golf NZhave also been good to me.
Along with older sibling Momoka also regularly in the limelight and enjoying their healthy sibling rivalry on the Charles Tour, we will be hearing a lot of the Kobori name as the future unfolds.
Yes, Kazuma Kobori is yet another of New Zealand’s promising young golfers making a mark in the sport they love.