October 25, 2017: Arizona State University’s Kevin Yu Chun-an is hoping to make the leap from leading contender to champion at this week’s ninth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand, two months after reaching the US Amateur quarter-finals in California.
Yu is playing the AAC for a fourth straight year but making his first visit to New Zealand where he’s looking to improve on a tie for fourth in Hong Kong 2015 and a solo sixth place in Korea last year – the best result of any of this year’s contenders.
Although he only turned 19 in August, Yu has long been one of the region’s top amateurs, winning the individual bronze and team gold in the 2014 Asian Games in Korea where his teammates included individual champion Pan Cheng-tsung, now a PGA TOUR player.
Pan was unable to win the AAC in three attempts, finishing second, eighth and fifth respectively from 2012 to 2014, but Yu is hoping it will be fourth time lucky as he seeks to become the championship’s first winner from Chinese Taipei.
“My results at the AAC have been pretty good. I hope this is my time,” said Yu, who said he’s extra motivated by the reward of a spot in The 147th Open at Carnoustie as well as the Masters Tournament.
“Everybody’s pretty excited about getting to the Masters and The Open so I’m really looking forward to this week. It’s even better this year that we also get to play in The Open. It’s pretty hard to play in the majors and this is a good chance so hopefully I can do it this year.
“I’ve known Pan since I was 14 and he’s always been like my brother. He’s a really, really good player and consistent. He taught me a lot about strategy, how to play smart and when to be aggressive. I learned a lot of things from him. Every year, I’m just trying to do the best I can.”
No. 34 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Yu is the tournament’s sixth highest-ranked player after four Australians and World No. 26 Rayhan Thomas of India. Yu appears unfazed by either the field or the local challenges at Royal Wellington Golf Club.
“This is my first time in New Zealand and I like windy conditions. In Taiwan, we have a lot of wind, so I like it,” said Yu, who lived in Chinese Taipei until moving to the US for college.
Now in his second year at Arizona State, Yu has strung together some impressive results across the world since starting his freshman season this January.
In February, he won the National Invitational Tournament at Arizona, a month later was joint runner-up at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, also in Arizona, and in July finished ninth at an Asian Development Tour pro event in Chinese Taipei.
In August he beat current World No. 3 Collin Morikawa during a great run to the last eight of the US Amateur where fellow quarter-finalists included Australia No. 1 Travis Smyth, the top-ranked player at Royal Wellington this week.
“I didn’t have any expectations at the US Am so I just showed in the tournament what I can do. I was really happy with the result and it gave me a lot of confidence, so I’m really looking forward to playing this week,” said Yu who tied for third at the Summer Universiade in Chinese Taipei at the end of August.
Yu has blossomed at college and even holds the second-best stroke average (71.61) by an Arizona State freshman behind Jon Rahm. He also disclosed that his teammates have given him a special nickname.
“I really like college life so far,” he said. “My coach and teammates are awesome. My English name is Kevin, but my teammates call me ‘Chev’, a combination of Kevin and Chun-an.”
This week’s champion will earn spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and, for the first time, The 147th Open at Carnoustie, while the runner(s)-up will earn a place in The Open Qualifying Series for The Open.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) is organised by the Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A – and will be televised across 160 countries and reach millions of homes around the world.
The Championship is also supported by six Proud Partners – AT&T, 3M, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Zurich and UPS – and two Scoring Partners, Rolex and IBM.