Shintaro Ban picked up the biggest victory of his young career as the 18-year-old UNLV signee from San Jose, Calif., won the San Fancisco City Men’s Amateur on March 9 at Presidio Golf Course.
Ban defeated Rick Reinsberg, 8 and 7, in the final match.
Golfweek caught up with Ban to chat with him about the big victory in San Francisco, his older brother, Shotaro, who plays at Cal, and his future college team:
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Talk about the big victory in San Francisco. Now, you were the stroke-play medalist at the 2012 U.S. Junior in Straham, N.H., but this one has to be the biggest win of your young career, am I right?
Definitely one of the biggest wins for my career because it’s not a junior golf tournament. It was an amateur event where everyone’s there. I’m really honored. . . . I lost in the Round of 16 last year (at the event) and made it to the semifinals my first year (in 2012). . . . Being medalist at the U.S. Junior, that was my first big accomplishment, and I’ve won several small tournaments around the Bay Area and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Amateur, but this one was pretty big.
You’re signed to play for UNLV in the fall. Have you kept up with the Rebels this season?
I’ve been texting coach (Dwaine Knight) after every match, asking him what I could do to improve and stuff like that. They had a big win Sunday (at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters).
And what made you ultimately decide to sign there?
There were three main reasons. First of all, obviously, the coaches. Coach Knight, he’s pretty much a legend and short-game guru. He’s the old-timer with more experience while his assistant J.C. (Deacon) has more of the youth thing. He can relate to most college golfers and is a really good player. No one on the team has beaten him yet on the golf course, he tells me. Second, almost every year someone goes on to play pro golf at a high level. And third, the courses and facilities are amazing, especially Shadow Creek. When I first saw it, I’m like, ‘Wow. I get to practice and play here whenever I want.’
Your older brother, Shotaro, plays at Cal and also won an amateur event on March 9 at the Diablo Valley Amateur.
Yeah, he called me as soon as I finished. My mom and his friends were watching me. He called me and he’s like, ‘Good win, but dude guess what? I won, too.’ That was pretty awesome.
Why didn’t you follow in his footsteps and sign with Cal?
It just didn’t feel right. He told me their coach was looking at me after the (2012) U.S. Junior, but I’m glad I chose UNLV.
Who’s the better Ban brother and how often do people get you guys confused?
I don’t know. We’re both at the same level. Whoever has their day is the better one that day. He always says I’m younger so I have the advantage, though. His mental game is stronger, but I have more accomplishments. He hasn’t played in a USGA event yet – I’ve played in two. And yeah, people get us confused a lot, especially at the (San Francisco) City. They thought I was my older brother and asking me how I like Cal, and I’m like, ‘I’m only a senior in high school.’
What’s your schedule like for the rest of the spring and summer?
I’m going to play in amateur tournaments around the Bay Area for the rest of the spring and then in the summer, I’m going to try to get into some invitationals like the Monroe Invitational, the Trans-Miss Amateur, etc.
What is your biggest goal right now?
I’d love to play in the U.S. Amateur again.
Describe your game for those who aren’t familiar with it.
My strength is my tee shot with driver. I’m short – 5-foot-8 – and 135 pounds, but I can constantly hit the ball 300 yards. I also set myself up pretty good off the tee. Putting is probably my second strongest part of my game. I’ve been working a lot on it.
What’s one thing most of your fellow golf peers don’t know about you?
Most of the time, if there’s daylight, I try to (play) golf as much as I can. I like to play basketball, too, and I actually used to swim competitively with my brother when I was younger. That was our main sport before we turned over to golf. We actually both picked up golf pretty late, too (12 years old).