ASU men's golfer Chun An Yu looks to make his mark at US Open

Sun Devil golf head coach Matt Thurmond will serve as Yu's caddie

Chun An "Kevin" Yu will join Sun Devil golf royalty Thursday as he participates in the 120th annual U.S. Open.

Yu joins six other ASU golfers competing in the tournament, including Phil Mickelson and the No. 2 golfer in the world, Jon Rahm.

Yu, a senior at ASU who ranks third in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, will be making his third consecutive appearance in the tournament. In both 2018 and 2019, Yu failed to make it past the Friday cut, something he hopes to change this week.

“I just learned so much from the past two times at the U.S. Open,” Yu said to reporters Friday in a Zoom conference. “The past few times I was extra nervous and trying to work harder, so this time I just want to be normal me, and relax a little bit, but still do the work I should do.”

Helping Yu relax and play within himself in the tournament will be ASU head coach Matt Thurmond, who will be caddying for Yu throughout the week. 

“I love this guy and I’ve walked a lot of rounds with him," Thurmond said to the media in the Zoom conference. "I want to help him play well because he’s really good and he’s good enough to contend in a tournament like this, so I just wanna save him a shot or two.”

Part of Yu's logic in choosing Thurmond as his caddie was to help ease some of those jitters with the help of a familiar face. 

“He coached me for four years already and he knows me so well," Yu said. "On the course, he knows how to calm me down. We are always talking about the mental side.” 

Yu admits to being starstruck the first two times competing in the tournament, teeing off on the same course as various stars of the game, such as Rahm and Rory McIlroy, so much that his "hands were actually shaking." 

Given that experience, part of Yu's shift in mindset will be reminding himself that he belongs.

“My mindset needs to be that I’m ready to go and I’m just like those players," Yu said. "I can be at that level."

Thurmond said Mickelson and Rahm still frequent the Tempe area and have provided help to Yu and other golfers in the program.

“Every time I play with them, I learn a small thing from them," Yu said. "Seeing Phil’s short game was unbelievable and then Jon’s ball-striking is just phenomenal."

At Winged Foot Golf Club, a notoriously challenging course where this year's tournament will be held, controlling the mental side of golf will be essential for Yu. Having researched the course, Yu has constructed a gameplan heading into the tournament.

“The big key for me next week is probably ball striking," Yu said. "I saw the layout on the course next week and it’s narrow. The rough will be thick, the greens will be fast. If I hit it straight and avoid those roughs, it should be a good week for me.”

Yu's teammate, sophomore Cameron Sisk, is confident his teammate will perform well, as he commends Yu's ability to calculate risk for each individual shot. 

"Mentally, I'd would say he's probably the strongest in college golf," Sisk said. "Nothing really phases him. He pours in so much focus into each shot he hits."

Thurmond highlighted the prestige ASU's program has built, which is now being improved with Yu's presence in this year's tournament.

“It’s pretty cool to see that the legacy continues and that’s gonna keep going and we are all in a way connected because of legacy golf all on the biggest stage," Thurmond said. "It’s (The U.S. Open) where great golf is played. ASU should be there, and we’re there."


Reach the reporter at ltochter@asu.edu and follow @Leo_Toch on Twitter.

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