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Mina grabs OneAsia ticket at Q-School

Eric MinaLOS ANGELES, California, Feb 1 - American Eric Mina booked himself a start in all OneAsia's million-dollar tournaments this year with a brilliant five-stroke victory at Q-School at Industry Hills Golf Club in Los Angeles, California.

The 25-year-old rookie professional fired rounds of 68, 67, 66 and 71 to finish 16 under par -- comfortably ahead of countryman John Young Kim (70) and Korean Lim Hyun-seok (72), who shared second place.

"I am still trying to get my head around this," said Mina, who pushed his own bag around the hilly 7,211-yard  (6,593-metre), par-72 Eisenhower Course.

"This year is going to be completely different to what I had planned. This is just amazing."

Nearly 200 players signed up for the final stages of Q-School, with 10 spots up for grabs in California and 14 at Sutera Harbour Golf Club in Kota Kinabalu from February 5 - 8.

The aim for the California leg was to attract the Asia-Pacific players who base themselves on the U.S. west coast for college or training during winter, and also young professionals from north America with roots across the Pacific.

Mina, who hails from California by way of a Filipina mother and American-born Filipino father, said he only entered the tournament on the advice of a friend.

"I'd heard of OneAsia, but I didn't think they'd have a Q-School here," he said. "I think I entered the day before entries closed."

He has wanted to be a professional golfer since learning the game from his father as a toddler, but Mina expected this year to be spent honing his swing and playing on mini-tours.

Instead, he now has to book his ticket to the season-opening U.S. $1 million Thailand Open from March 14-17.

"I've never visited Asia but my Dad has been to Thailand quite a bit so I reckon I will take him with me on my first visit," said Mina. "I also have a lot of family in the Philippines so I would like to visit them as soon as possible."

A win in Los Angeles or Malaysia next week is rewarded by a start in all OneAsia's world-ranked tournaments -- including the national Open championships of Australia, China, Korea and Thailand, and competing against some of the world's top-ranked players.

Mina was struggling to get his head around the implications.

"My dad teared up a bit when I told him what had happened," said Mina, who called his parents immediately after finishing.

"This really is a life changer."

Second placed Lim, born in Korea but brought up in southern California, said he was looking forward to the chance of playing some OneAsia events.

"I hope I can get a lot of starts as playing on OneAsia will be a great opportunity," he said.

Kim, meanwhile, was looking forward to the chance to visit his parents' homeland for the first time.

"The chance to compete in something like the Korea Open would be great," said the American-born youngster, playing in his first-ever professional tournament.