With his coach as his caddie, ASU’s Kevin Yu steady in third U.S. Open appearance

Arizona State’s Kevin Yu, who has his golf coach as his caddie, shot a steady even par 70 in the first round of the U.S. Open. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona State has a rich history of producing professional golfers and competing on the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson, John Rahm and Paul Casey each have made their mark at the highest level, further cementing the foundation of ASU’s golf program.

That legacy continues to grow as current ASU golfer Chun An “Kevin” Yu looks to make his mark in his third straight appearance in the U.S. Open Championship. And he’ll be doing it with ASU men’s golf coach, Matt Thurmond, carrying his bag.

“I’m honored that he would choose me to be his caddie,” Thurmond said. “Honestly, I’m really nervous and I feel a lot of pressure. I really want to help him play well and he’s good enough to contend in a tournament like this. I just want to save him a shot or two.”

Yu, 22, is the youngest of seven Sun Devils teeing off in the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. He was steady in his debut Thursday, shooting a par 70 in the first round and recorded an eagle on the 6th hole.

“I’ve just learned so much from the past two times at the U.S Open, like the past two times I was just super nervous and trying extra hard to prepare,” Yu said before the tournament. “This time, I’m just being myself while staying relaxed and still doing the work that I need to do.”

This time, Yu, who ranks third in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, has a familiar face alongside him on the course.

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During the past four years, Thurmond has mentored Yu in his golf game, which helped the fifth-year senior in his decision-making process.

“(Matt) knows me so well,” Yu said. “On the course, we have three keys that can help me play good golf. He can always remind me of that. He’s also always talking to me about the mental side.”

Thurmond is prepared to be “his servant” this weekend, dawning a new pair of the golden Arizona State Ultraboost running shoes.

“I’m going to be loud, and proud Sun Devil pretty hardcore all week,” Thurmond said. “I’m worried about those Ultra Boosts. … Do I take a water-proof pair or do I just know that I’m going to have wet feet? I think I’m going to side with the wet feet.”

In addition to the flashy shoes, Thurmond talked to Yu about using a smaller golf bag instead of the standard tour bag.

“There was some discussion on a tour bag, but that’s not happening with me as the caddie,” Thurmond said with a chuckle.

Alternatively, Yu and Thurmond agreed on carrying a PT-42 camouflage bag, which commemorates ASU football legend and war hero Pat Tillman.

“That bag is really cool,” Yu said. “It really means something to me.”

This is not the first time Thurmond has been tasked with carrying a player’s clubs around the green. He most recently caddied for former Washington Huskies golfer C.T. Pan in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington.

“I’ve been to a lot of U.S Opens and I’ve caddied some,” Thurmond said. “Winged Foot looks tough. The best players in the world are there. Once a year, you get to try and do this. I’m just extra nervous probably because of the stage. I’m just carrying the clubs, so it doesn’t really matter if I’m nervous. It does speak to what a big deal this is and how exciting an opportunity this is for Kevin and our program.”

Yu last competed in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Golf Course in early March. Yu has posted nine top-five finishes since the spring 2019 season.

Despite Yu’s experience in the last two U.S. Open Championships, this year presents a one-of-a-kind experience. This will be the first U.S. Open without any spectators along the course.

“Playing in September is actually pretty nice,” Yu said. “It gives me a little more time to prepare for this tournament. I’m feeling great and ready to go.”

Michael Gutnick My-kull Gut-nick
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Michael Gutnick is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcast journalism and a minor in mathematics. He is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports this spring.