The bizarre twist of fate that earned this pro full PGA Tour status | Golf news and tour information (2024)

AAfter my first year on the PGA Tour in 2023, I ended up ranked 126th on the FedEx Cup points list; the top 125 keep their cards. Of course, I was disappointed to lose my card, but I was focused on regaining my status. I was playing a practice round for Q-school in December when Jon Rahm announced he was leaving for LIV Golf. He was removed from the leaderboard and I was demoted to 125th. Suddenly, I had full status on the tour.

When I was growing up in China, my father, who worked in the shipping industry, played golf. I was 7 years old when I started following him around the course. When I got tired, I would climb onto my dad's cart while the caddy pulled me and the clubs. A few years later, I started hitting balls and my parents found me a local coach.

Academic instruction in China is very intensive, so I spent a lot of time at school. I fell in love with golf because I wanted to be outside after long days at school. I would hit as many balls as I could, usually from a mat on a driving range. There are far fewer golf courses in China than in the US, so I didn't get to the course very often.

When I was 10, my coach took a group of us to southern China. After shooting 112 strokes in my first round of the tournament, a snowstorm hit and the tournament was canceled. It was the first time I had traveled without my parents and I was stuck there for an extra day and a half because the roads were closed. We took the train home, which took another two days. It was a rocky start to my competitive golf career, but I didn't let it discourage me.

When I was 13, I went to a golf camp in Florida. It opened my eyes to the things we were missing at home. In the US, the practice facilities are great, there is access to launch monitors and it is easy to play on the courses. I moved to Florida and attended a boarding school in Orlando to focus on golf.

I improved my ball striking so that I could make the shots that my creative mind envisioned. When I started looking at colleges, I was ranked in the top 100 amateurs in the world. I really liked the University of Washington and Seattle in particular because of the large Asian population and great food. That's where I met Cathy, who played on the women's golf team, and we got married in 2022. That alone definitely made it the right place for me.

Every year in December we went to a beach in Oregon for team building. Our coaches built a golf course in the sand out of whatever they could find: logs, trash, anything. We spent two days in a cabin playing golf on the beach course. Whoever got the highest score jumped into the ice-cold water. We were good friends and my quick wit developed through constant competition.

I turned pro after my junior year in 2018. It was hard leaving my teammates, but I knew my game was ready. I played in China and in a few DP World Tour events before joining the Korn Ferry Tour. After college, my wife also played professionally, but she didn't love competition enough to continue. Since she knows what it's like to make a swing change and what it feels like to miss a cut, she can really support me.

After I turned pro, people on the internet started noticing my perseverance. Any movements I make after my swing are not intentional. My turns are the result of my body doing everything it can to get the ball to the target. I've tried to stop doing this, but it's bad for my swing; too much thinking and being too technical leads to poorer results for me.

In 2021, I was close to getting my PGA Tour card on the Korn Ferry Tour, but had also qualified to represent China at the Tokyo Olympics. Competing in Tokyo meant I missed four events and probably my chance to get my card, but I felt a responsibility to be a role model for the juniors in China. I finished 38th at the Olympics and didn't get my tour card. It hurt, but I don't regret my decision. I came back the next season with more confidence and got my tour card. It proved that everything I had done and the decisions my family and I had made were right.

My wife has been taking mental training courses to help me on tour. It was hard not to be jealous of the early success of guys like Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa. My wife tells me to be a turtle: progress at my own pace. With her help, I'm making solid steps toward becoming the player I want to be.

During my freshman year, I learned about the courses we play on and how to create a schedule. I played too many weeks in a row, a mistake I won't make again. I started fishing on the off weeks to relax. I wanted to take the chance to learn something in my first year and now that I have it, I'm not going to waste it.

EDITOR'S NOTE – Through the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Yuan has competed in 17 events in the 2024 season, finishing in the top five twice. The 27-year-old currently sits 110th on the FedEx Cup points list.

The bizarre twist of fate that earned this pro full PGA Tour status | Golf news and tour information (2024)

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