One of the rising stars of Japanese sport earned a first Open start by winning October’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Singapore aged 20.
Ranked 22nd in world amateur golf at the time, he was six strokes behind at halfway before producing rounds of 64 and 65 to win by two from compatriot Keita Nakajima and India’s Rayhan Thomas.
Previous winners of the trophy include Hideki Matsuyama in 2010 and 2011 and China’s Guan Tianlang just after his 14th birthday in 2012.
“I never expected to play the Masters and The Open so early in my career, so this is just huge," said Kanaya, although he nearly qualified for Royal Troon in 2016 after finishing only one shot behind Yuta Ikeda in the previous season’s Japan Open.
He won his country’s amateur championship in 2015 and in 2018 was the second leading individual at The Eisenhower Trophy in Ireland, where Spain’s Alejandro Del Rey Gonzalez pipped him by one stroke.
That came just after he had been part of Japan’s winning side at the Asian Games, while his record also includes top-20 finishes at the New South Wales Open and Emirates Australian Open in 2017.