Q&A with Carl Yuan about skydiving, his shank drill and more.
April 05, 2021
By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- April 05, 2021
- Carl Yuan is currently No. 45 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings and one of the Tour’s most intriguing characters. (Bed Jared/Getty Images)
Carl Yuan is one of the Korn Ferry Tour’s most intriguing characters. Not only has Yuan been seeing practicing pre-round with a drill where he purposely tries to hit the dreaded shank, but the body English he puts on shots after impact is incomparable to anyone else in the game not named Ho Sung Choi.
The 24-year-old former Washington Husky, who is currently No. 45 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings, also isn’t even the best golfer in his house he says. That honor goes to his wife, Luo Ying, who is also a professional golfer and also played at the University of Washington.
PGA TOUR Digital caught up with Yuan to discuss his famous hosel shank drill, comparisons to Ho Sung Choi, hitting it over friend’s heads, and his dream of a sub-60 round.
How did you get started in golf?
My dad used to play a little bit, so he took me out on the course. In China we have caddies with push carts, and I was so little that I was literally laying on top of the golf bag and the caddie was pushing the push cart with me on it. I’d just hang out with my dad on the course, and then we started going to the range. But I really started playing when I was nine or 10 years old, actually got a coach and had a lesson, and I really liked it. It was more like a hobby but when I was 12 or 13, spent a little more time outside school to play and practice and then I decided to come to the States for high school so I could get more structured training and play a lot more on the course.
You have all these twirls and body english when you’re hitting shots, how did that start, and does it help and has a coach ever tried to get you to stop?
No, all my coaches don’t stop me from doing that as long as I’m doing my fundamentals right. It’s more I think it started with when I play, I learned to focus less on technique in tournaments, so all my intention is getting my ball from here to where I want to be, so I shift my mind to be more focused on how to get the ball there and what swing I need to pull off to get my ball there. I’m not doing those swings intentionally. They just come out.
Do you ever get comparison to Ho Sung Choi?
Sometimes I would say, but I don’t do that all the time. Not as much as he does it. I don’t do that on the putting green. That’s a little bit too much for me.
Who were your favorite players growing up?
For sure, Tiger. He was always on TV, so it’s hard to not like him. The person he is and how he changed the sport. It’s crazy to think about how an athlete can change many people or just one athlete can change a whole sport.
Great question. Honestly it would be Tiger, my dad, and my father-in-law.
What’s your favorite golf course and what course is on the bucket list that you haven’t played yet?
Well, favorite course I will say is probably Sage Valley that I got to play as a junior. That place is really nice, pretty much like Augusta. Yeah, it’s probably the purest course I’ve played on. I would say that’s my favorite course. The course I want to play on is definitely Augusta and unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to play Pebble. I would love to play Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.
Are you still doing the shank hosel drill before rounds?
No, not as much. I still do it occasionally but not as much as I used to.
Did you ever accidentally shank one in the round after doing that on the range?
Nope, so far so good.
There’s a video of you hitting it over a friend’s head from pretty close range…how did you convince him to stand there?
Well, normally, they’re pretty confident, but they don’t do it willingly. Normally, it’s after losing a putting contest to me as a punishment.
How often do you guys do that?
Not too often.
What’s left on your bucket list in golf?
For sure, winning a Korn Ferry Tour event this year and I would love to shoot a sub-60 round. Yeah, those two things are going to be fun to do coming up this year and finish out the year. So, I think those two things are my main focus right now.
What motivates you?
I think for me I am a pretty I would say really creative golfer. So, I’m learning to have as many shots as possible in my bag that I can hit so every day I go out on the course in any tournament that I’m willing to face any challenge, no matter how bad of a lie I am in or how challenging the course might be. I know I can have the ability to challenge it or conquer it and it really inspires me to thrive on a hard course. Also, I don’t want to say showing off, but I love showing people what I am able to do and pushing people to do the best I can. I’m not trying to hold any limits on myself, if there’s a possibility that I can make a birdie and there’s a risk, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I just want to challenge myself to the best possible.
What else do you like to do away from the golf course?
Away from the course, I’m trying to find some hobbies. I like fishing, and I live in Jacksonville, so there’s a place that I like to go fish that’s pretty close to TPC Sawgrass, like five minutes from the back gate. Sometimes I do it before or after practice. I kind of enjoy the peacefulness of the course and helps me with patience and stuff like that.
I saw you skydived…how was that?
I did in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center. It was my first time doing it, and it was a lot of fun. I got pretty nervous for three seconds over there. I was totally fine getting on the plane, but the scariest moment is when I stick my head and body out and seeing the clouds going by down there and then I knew I needed to jump in the next moment. That scared me a little bit, but it was pretty cool, doing the free fall, checking out the view. It was definitely a great experience that I had.
What made you go to the University of Washington?
I loved the city. Seattle is such a cool place to be, and I loved Coach Thurmond who recruited me. Super nice guy. The city is great. It’s a little more culturally there’s a little more Asian population and the food is good. It’s pretty close to home being on the West Coast, so it all adds up. Yeah, made the right choice. Met my wife there. So even better.
How did you meet your wife at Washington?
Well, she’s a way better golfer than me. She played on the team when they won the NCAA Championship in Eugene.
Does she help you with the game at all and how often does she get to come to tournaments with you?
Because of COVID, there was no tournaments back in China, so she was playing China before COVID happened. But we just started traveling together end of last year, and then she’s pretty much traveling with me to every event in the States now on the Korn Ferry Tour. She’s such a huge help to me. It’s such a tough tour to be on, traveling by myself week to week. Especially when I’m not playing great, it’s kind of lonely. So, her being here to support me and for me, that’s huge.
I know you’ve gotten to play with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai…was there any big takeaways from playing with them?
That was all fun to play with great golfers like them. First of all, they’re just the best people to meet. I know they’re way famous and way better golfers, but playing in the same group, we talked like normal friends. They don’t hold themselves way higher than I am, and so I felt really comfortable being with them in the same group. I would say being friendly is a huge character they had, and I played with Rory and Phil and the class they show even though they didn’t play their best golf, but their attitude towards the game and some shots they hit, it’s shockingly good. I’m really impressed by how they handle themselves on the course and their game. So that was really cool to be around and seeing the way they played around the course was a lot more mature than I did. So, it definitely motivates me to think smarter on the course and be like people like them.
What would it mean for you to play in the Olympics? Is that a goal?
Oh yes, 100%. That’d be a huge deal to me. I’ve got a ton of support from my country financially and all other aspects, giving me opportunities to play. So being able to represent my country in the Olympics and having a chance to win a medal, that’s a huge deal to myself and the country. So definitely something I’m really wanting to accomplish if possible.
I know you and Marty Dou are close buddies…What’s it like having him out there on the Korn Ferry Tour with you?
I’d say he’s definitely my closest golf buddy. We grew up playing together when we were like 10 years old. So, I’ve known him for more than 14 years now. So that’s a long time. Having him on this tour, it’s tough being here by yourself, so we play practice rounds and hang out together. So, it’s a huge deal to both of us having someone from the same country come all the way over here to compete. We have each other’s back. We help each other out, and we travel together. That means a lot to us.
I know you want to start your own charity, so could you tell us more about that?
Yes, it’s definitely one of my long-term goals that I want to accomplish in my golf career because many people helped me to get on this road and helped me keep going. I always want to give back to the society and help young kids. So definitely charity is one of my main goals and I want to accomplish that in my golf career.
What cause do you want to support with your charity?
I think it would be helping more kids to play golf because it’s such a great sport and it benefits a person in all aspects of life – mentally, physically and how to be a great person. So, I think helping kids to do that means a lot to me.