WICHITA, Kan. – Kevin Yu came to Arizona State University for the PGA TOUR with no fixed route. As the COVID-19 pandemic washed out the 2019-20 season, Yu, who had just finished a historic junior year with the Sun Devils, had professional talent but no way to earn status. Enter the PGA TOUR University. The program produced its first 15-player class earlier this month, with Yu finishing fourth on the leaderboard and receiving the Korn Ferry Tour starts in open, full-on events for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
And within 18 days, Yu has retired from college at the NCAA championships, made his professional debut at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation last week, and secured the 54-hole lead at the Wichita Open KU Wichita Pediatrics benefit.
Yu gave himself the chance to shoot golf’s magical number on Saturday but happily settled for 9 under 61, setting the Crestview Country Club course record and the 18-hole scoring record for a tournament in the 32nd year of the Korn Ferry tour schedule. Yu’s nine-birdie-zero bogey scorecard put him under par 19 for the week, putting him two strokes ahead of 36-hole front runner Harry Hall.
“I drove the ball well today and hit a lot of greens so I had a chance to do some birdies and I took advantage of those opportunities,” said Yu. “I didn’t think of 59. I was close, but I didn’t even think about it. I just wanted to make a good shot for every shot I hit. I tried to stay in the present. “
Yu opened his third round with four back-to-back birdies and fought for another on the ninth par-4. Four birdies over the next six holes brought Yu to 9-under with three holes remaining. A pair of 15-foot birdie putts slid past the par-4 16th and par-3 17th, and Yu made a gentle up and down from the back of the par-4 18th to solidify the third 61 of the week.
Yu has played his last 23 holes at 13 under par.
“I think I knew I could be in this situation. I just never thought about leading the tournament during the round, ”said Yu. “I just tried to focus on each shot and not think about future things. My game now, I can win here. From last week to this week I feel like my game has been solid. That definitely gives me a lot of self-confidence for tomorrow. “
Yu, a player from China Taipei, first made his presence known to the golf world with a win at the 2015 Western Junior, the oldest national junior golf tournament in the United States. The event’s former champions list includes savvy PGA TOUR players Collin Morikawa (2013), Rickie Fowler (2005) and Jim Furyk (1987).
For his first three seasons in the state of Arizona, Yu won a tournament each spring. Early in the spring half of his junior season, Yu won the 2019 Australian Master of the Amateurs Championship, leading a field that included future PGA TOUR winner Matthew Wolff. Yu then finished the 2018-19 season with an average of 69.20 – which ranked second in Arizona State statistical records for 1987 only after five-time PGA TOUR winner Jon Rahm’s (2014-15) junior campaign – and received an All-America First Team Laurel.
Yu crowned the incredible season with a third place finish at the 2019 NCAA Championships, finishing behind Georgia Southern’s Wolff and Steven Fisk.
When COVID-19 hit the following year, Yu returned to the state of Arizona for a fifth year and chose to track the status of the Korn Ferry Tour through the newly formed PGA TOUR University. PGA TOUR University’s mission is to pave the way for the best seniors of college golf to join the PGA TOUR. It also gives players an incentive to stay in school longer and keep working towards a degree.
The five best players in this year’s PGA TOUR University ranking received Korn Ferry Tour status and an exception for the final stage of the upcoming Korn Ferry Tour qualification tournament. Players who finished # 6-15 were given Forme Tour status and an exception for the second phase of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifier.
“It’s just a great opportunity for us to graduate and get the chance to play the Korn Ferry Tour right out of college,” said Yu. “After COVID happened … I just didn’t have a place to play. I wanted to be a pro but I didn’t know where to play. When I stayed another year I had the chance to stay in the top 5 and get into Korn Ferry (Tour). This is definitely a good experience for me. I have to play well every week to make the cut or stay on top. A really good test for me. The program helped me a lot to get here.
“The first pair (holes tomorrow) will probably be pretty nervous. But I think what I want to do is stick to the plan, just stay in the present. That’s what I really hope I can do tomorrow: just stay in the present and not think about the future, focus on the moment, stick to the plan. “
Yu is a man with a plan and a talented professional golfer with a clear path to the PGA TOUR. Winning the Korn Ferry Tour would certainly speed up the journey.
In the third round on Saturday, the field also set a record for the lowest single-lap points average in the history of the Korn Ferry Tour. The field’s average score in the third round was 67,110, beating the previous point record of 67,136 from the 1993 BUY.com Siouxland Open.
The tee times for the final round take place in groups of three and run from 6:55 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. local time from the first tee shot.