KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
PGA TOUR University alum Kevin Yu trending in chase of first TOUR card
May 11, 2022
By Adam Stanley , PGATOUR.COM
- Arizona State alum Kevin Yu finished runner-up at last week's Simmons Bank Open. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Kevin Yu’s father, Tommy, is a professional golfer as well. The Korn Ferry Tour rookie is from Chinese Taipei and grew up playing golf with his dad, frequenting the local course for as long as he can remember. His dad also inspired Yu’s competitive spirit.
“I wanted to beat my dad so bad out there,” said Yu, “and that’s what got me into this game.”
Yu started playing tournaments when he was about 7 years old, and he shot 120 (“ish,” he remembers) in his first go-around. He saw how much better the other kids were and he wanted to beat them, too.
“I really started to get into it then, and I really wanted to be a professional golfer when I was that age,” he said. “I just knew I really wanted to do this for my life.”
Yu emerged from a celebrated career at Arizona State University to make a big-time splash on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, and he’s aiming to continue that momentum into 2022, his first full campaign on the path to the PGA TOUR.
Yu finished runner-up at last week’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, ending up just one shot back of winner Brent Grant’s 16-under total.
The second-place finish moved Yu to 27th on The 25 and came after Yu missed three cuts in a row.
“I’ve been playing pretty solid this whole year, but obviously the results were not too good,” admits Yu. “I had missed three cuts in a row, but I still felt like I was playing some good golf. Just not close enough. Last week everything was going really well. My swing, the plan, the strategy … it was all good.
“Having seen the result, a second, it gave me a lot of confidence to keep doing what I’m doing right now.”
Yu first emerged on the radar of schools in America when he was a young teenager. He first came from Chinese Taipei to the U.S. when he was 13 to play American Junior Golf Association events in the summertime. Two summers later, he broke through as the gold medalist at the Asian Youth Games, and interest from NCAA programs grew substantially at age 17, when he won the Western Junior and the Junior PLAYERS Championship.
At the Junior PLAYERS, contested at TPC Sawgrass, he topped a field that included future TOUR winners Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland and Matt Wolff.
“A lot of schools were talking to me after that,” said Yu.
Interestingly, Yu never made an official visit to Arizona State’s campus. He knew the Sun Devils had always fielded a solid golf team, the weather in the desert was perfect, and he knew of the coaches (one of whom, Matt Thurmond, spent 15 years at the University of Washington where he coached Yu’s countryman, and now TOUR winner, C.T. Pan) and how great they were.
“Jon (Rahm) was the No. 1 player in the world and went there, and I thought, ‘There’s got to be something there,’” said Yu. “It worked out pretty good.”
Yu spent five years at ASU as the COVID-19 pandemic forced Yu’s senior campaign to be cancelled. He climbed as high as No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and earned Korn Ferry Tour membership via a top-five finish on the inaugural PGA TOUR University Ranking.
He ended up with a scoring average just shy of Rahm’s school-record 70.21, and his 586 career birdies while at ASU were also second only to Rahm.
Now, Yu said, everything’s different. He’s competed on big stages before (he qualified for three straight U.S. Opens, 2018-2020, and finished runner-up in a playoff at The Ascendant at TPC Colorado in his fourth event as a pro), but he’s still learning the ropes.
“In college, Coach would do everything for you – booking hotels, all the travel … you’d just have to show up at a place and play some good golf,” said Yu. “Being a professional golfer right now, I have to plan everything right now, by myself. Being a professional golfer your first year, you have to learn a lot of things like that and plan out your own stuff.”
The @KevinGolfYu file ...— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) June 19, 2021
• Grew up in Chinese Taipei.
• Learned game at parents' driving range.
• Played collegiately @SunDevilMGolf.
• Competed three times @usopengolf as amateur.
• No. 4 on inaugural @PGATOURU Ranking.
• 54-hole leader @WichitaOpen in second KFT start. pic.twitter.com/u2Wbzhlwdg
Still, his on-course work has been solid. He didn’t try to do anything special after he finished his time at ASU, and with the great results last season on the Korn Ferry Tour – the playoff loss came less than a month after a T5 at the Wichita Open, where he held the 54-hole lead after shooting 61 and was part of a stretch of four top-25 results in a row to start his Korn Ferry Tour career – he knew the results would buoy his confidence.
His main goal is to earn a spot on the PGA TOUR at year’s end, and he knows if he keeps playing the way he’s capable of, that goal will become a reality soon.
And then he’ll be eager to beat some of the best in the world, after starting his golfing career like so many – just trying to beat his dad.
“I feel comfortable out there just doing my thing,” said Yu. “If I do everything I can, there are no regrets for that.”