Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu on track for Olympic dream
Olympics/IGF Adam Stanley
Kevin Yu and C.T. Pan won a gold medal together at the Asian Games a decade ago, and Yu says it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to try to win another medal this summer at the Olympics for Chinese Taipei – with his friend alongside.
Yu is looking to follow in Pan’s footsteps as an Olympic medalist, as his countryman captured bronze in an epic seven-man playoff in 2021.
“It would mean a lot,” Yu says. “It would be nice to represent Taiwan again and to win a gold medal again. That would be very cool to achieve.”
Yu was a celebrated amateur while at Arizona State University and finished No. 20 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List to earn a PGA TOUR card for the first time in 2022. That came a year after he finished No. 4 in the inaugural PGA TOUR University ranking to automatically earn Korn Ferry Tour status.
“He’s always seen himself as a PGA TOUR player,” Yu’s Arizona State coach Matt Thurmond told PGATOUR.com last year. “That’s the only option or thinking in his mind. That’s where he belongs.”
Yu first came to the United States when he was 13 to play American Junior Golf Association events in the summertime. Two years later is when he broke through as a gold medalist at the Asian Games. Yu’s father was his first coach, and Yu won his first tournament in the third grade. At 17 he won the Junior PLAYERS Championship – amongst a few other big-time tournaments – and some big schools in the U.S. took notice.
“Golfers from Taiwan work really hard,” Yu said on the Korn Ferry Tour’s official podcast after earning his PGA TOUR card. “The harder you work, there’s a chance to be really successful. All the juniors work really hard; and I think that’s what you need when you’re really young.”
Yu’s first PGA TOUR campaign featured a bit of up-and-down results as he made 12 cuts but missed 11. He still managed to retain his PGA TOUR card after finishing 112th on the FedExCup Playoffs Eligibility and Points List – thanks to three top-10 finishes.
This season has been a nice turnaround for Yu through the early part of 2024. Yu has two straight top-10s in just three events, with the latter at the Farmers Insurance Open earning him an exemption into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the PGA TOUR’s Signature Events
He’s pointed to a significant improvement in his putting as the turnaround point. Yu was 191st in Strokes Gained: Putting last season, and he’s all the way up to 48th in the same stat for this year.
“I’ve been hitting the ball way better (and at the Farmers Insurance Open) I was hitting a lot of fairways which was definitely a key and I feel like my putting is getting better too. I’ve been working hard on my putting and it’s definitely been better than last year,” Yu says.
He’s also just found himself more comfortable with being a PGA TOUR golfer – a job that comes with many layers.
Yu bought a house about 10 minutes from TPC Scottsdale, where the WM Phoenix Open is played, and his parents visit frequently. He also continues to hang with his friends from college – so there’s plenty of easy routine in Yu’s life these days.
“Sunday at The American Express I was just two shots back of the lead at one point and I was definitely more comfortable than I would have been last year. Everything is feeling more comfortable and I’m just doing my thing on the course,” Yu says. “It makes things on the TOUR a little easier and makes me feel more comfortable on TOUR.”
But while Yu is off to as fine a start as he could have asked for on the PGA TOUR in 2024, he’s as eager as ever to lock in his spot at the Olympics. He says he’s wanted to go to Paris “so bad” and it would be as good an opportunity as any to do it while representing his home country.
“I’m trying to keep the momentum going now, for sure,” Yu says. “My goal this year was to represent Taiwan in the Olympics – it was one of the things I’ve wanted to do since I was younger.”
With each passing week as Yu continues to grow more and more comfortable with the PGA TOUR – and the good results keep piling up – he’s getting closer and closer to achieving that dream.