PHOENIX – Chun An Yu knows the benefits of attending a school with a rich history of golf success.
The Arizona State amateur is playing in his second straight U.S. Open. Last year at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York, he played a practice round with ASU product Jon Rahm. This year, he played and learned from former Sun Devils great Phil Mickelson as well as his good friend Cheng-tsung Pan, also from Chinese Taipei.
He took their messages to heart. After a rocky start Thursday with a bogey and double bogey, he rebounded nicely on the front nine and posted birdies on holes 6, 7 and 9 and finished even on the front nine at Pebble Beach in Monterey, California. He struggled on the back nine with four bogeys and a birdie and ended the day at 3-over. He hopes to use the guidance of his ASU mentors to bounce back on Friday.
“(Tuesday) I played with Phil. Obviously he knows the course really really well,” Yu said Wednesday. “I actually learned a few things from him. I played with Pan and I’ve known him for forever, it was cool to play with Pan for two days. They’re really good players and they have played this course many times. I actually learned a lot of things from them and hopefully I can use them on the course tomorrow.”
Yu is one of seven golfers representing the Sun Devils at the U.S. Open, with familiar names including Mickelson, Rahm, Paul Casey and Chez Reavie taking the course.
— Sun Devil Men's Golf (@sundevilmgolf) June 13, 2019
Yu’s qualification took place at Big Country Club & Newport Beach Country Club as he competed against 98 other players for five spots in this year’s US Open. Yu won the tournament shooting a 12-under 131 to win the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier.
In his first appearance at the U.S. Open in 2018, Yu struggled at Shinnecock Hills, finishing plus-17 and missing the cut for the weekend. This year is different for Chun and the first person to tell you that is ASU men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond.
“When he went to the qualifying, (I was thinking) he’s probably the favorite in this field to win it,” Thurmond said. “I don’t think there is any trick to it, other than the fact that he deserves to be there.”
Since qualifying for the US Open on June 3rd, Chun (called Kevin by teammates) had one last weekend of preparation before the tournament. He was invited to represent the International team at the Arnold Palmer Cup at the Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas. The international group defeated the United States team 33 1/2-26 1/2 and Yu was granted a sponsorship by both teams to return to the Arnold Palmer Cup next year in Ireland.
Yu had fun at the Palmer Cup, he said, and it gave him more confidence coming into the U.S. Open.
“Coming here this week, I was just feeling really good,” Yu said. “I just feel really ready for this week.”
The U.S. Open and golf’s other three majors (The Masters, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship) bring together the sport’s best in the world to compete at some of the most iconic courses.
“Mentally, you have to bring it every time,” Yu said. “Every time you are on the tee box it’s a new hole so you have to just get ready for everything for that hole. Don’t think about the past, think about the moment. If you think that way, it will be easier to focus in the moment and not have to worry about so many things.”
Last year, Yu had the opportunity to compete in the U.S. Amatuer at Pebble Beach and saw how the course was set up. However, the U.S. Open changes the course and shapes it to make it tougher for golfers to finish with low rounds.
“The course is set up really different, compared to last year,” Yu said. “The fairways are narrow and tighter, the greens are firmer and faster, the rough is definitely thicker.”
Yu and Thurmond both agreed that playing at Pebble Beach last year will be more familiar for Yu as he plays in the U.S. Open.
“He’s already familiar with the course, which will be a huge advantage for him and there’s going to be enough going on to get his attention,” Thurmond said. “For him to already know what the course is going to be like is a real advantage. It’s a good solid course and he has the skills for it.”
Yu’s strengths are in the best form they can be after playing at the Palmer Cup last week.
“I have actually hit (the ball) straight recently,” Yu said. “My irons shots are really good right now. … Mentally I just prepare for this tournament, even having a few bogeys, I know I can make a couple birdies back.”
Yu has had a hectic month of golf as he finished third in stroke play at the D1 NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, then qualified for the U.S. Open and finally represented the International Team at Palmer Cup before coming to Pebble Beach
When asked if the No. 5 ranked World Amatuer would return for his senior season, both Yu and Thurmond said he was coming back.
“I don’t want to be rushed,” Yu said. “The national championships in (2020-2022) are here at Grayhawk and we are really familiar with that course. It will be a good tournament to finish my amateur career. Next year I will get fully prepared for professional (play) and I can also finish my degree as well. That was always my plan and I want to follow my plan and graduate next year.”
Thurmond, who plans to get his degree in Liberal Studies, added that people shouldn’t be surprised if Yu ends up being the number one amateur in the world come his senior year.
“I think there’s a good chance he may work his way up to one or two here by the end of the summer.”
Yu is scheduled to tee off at 12:41 p.m., Arizona time, on Friday.
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