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Sean Yu Takes Unconventional Path to First PGA TOUR Start

Brayden Conover
Ron Balicki Scholarship Intern

All roads to the PGA TOUR have bumps and turns. Some are winding while others have a relatively straight path. For one San Jose State golfer, his road is still being paved.

Sean Yu, a senior at San Jose State won the Genesis Collegiate Showcase last Monday to earn his first PGA TOUR start in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.

Shooting a one-under-par 70 in his first-ever round at Riviera, Yu owes a large part of his success to Spartans head coach John Kennaday.

“He’s played a bunch of times and has walked the course a bunch of times so he knows what the target should be and where not to hit it and stuff like that,” Yu said in an interview with the Golf Coaches Association of America. “He just basically pointed where I should hit it and then I just followed directions.”

Yu transferred in from Cal following a shoulder injury he suffered during his freshman year. Just as he did at Riviera, Yu attributes much of his success to Kennaday.

“He (Kennaday) took a chance in me and then we just kind of worked. It clicked immediately after I just transferred.”

A native of Taiwan, Yu picked the game up at the age of nine before moving to America by way of China in 2011 with the goal of wanting to play golf at the collegiate level.

“I visited Cal when I was a junior in high school and I thought that was the right fit for me and then I committed right when I visited there,” Yu said.

“Obviously it didn’t really go out like the way I imagined. Then I decided to take a visit just down the road at San Jose State so when I took a visit, I took a look at the facility, I immediately fell in love with it and decided to give this a second try. I took this opportunity as a gift to hone in my game and it worked out well. Coach Kennaday is a big piece why I’m playing the way I am right now.”

A long three-year journey found Yu on the tenth tee at Riviera teeing it up with the world’s best professional golfers for the first time.

“I was so nervous, I was literally shaking on the tee,” said Yu. “I didn’t know how that ball got airborne.”

Nerves got the best of Yu on his first nine holes despite opening with a par on the par-four tenth. Making the turn at seven-over par, Yu settled in on his closing nine on Thursday with thanks to San Jose State teammate, and close friend, Vijay Srinivasan.

“It was cool to have him there because he knows me well,” Yu said.

“We would talk about anything on the course to calm me down, such as cracking jokes and talk about mental strategies that our coach most stress about.”

Srinivasan settled Yu’s nerves enough for him to put together an even-par closing nine, to much relief of Yu.

“That back nine on the first round I just stayed focused on my breathing and staying within myself, turned out to shoot even par on the back nine which is great because I didn’t want to shoot over an 80 in my first round on the PGA TOUR,” Yu told the GCAA through a chuckle.

Although Yu was nervous, Kennaday knew Yu was ready to take such a big leap in his young career.

“I thought he was ready,” Kennaday said. “I think he’s going to go places in this game as he continues to gain experience and the more experience I give him, the better he does. The course suits his game.”

Yu ended up following his opening round 78 with a 73 on Friday, missing the cut by eight strokes. Albeit a missed cut, coach Kennaday sees a bright future ahead of Yu.

“I know the tournament itself didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to, but that’s kind of understandable,” Kennaday said. “But the course itself is a good course for Sean. It really is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some success there down the road.”

While not being sure what the future holds for him, Yu is excited for an opportunity to earn a spot on the Arnold Palmer Cup International Team over the spring season, in hopes to represent Taiwan at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland this summer.