05 August 2018

A Big Man With a Big Game

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is already a big name in Thailand and he’s on his way to becoming the next big thing in the golf world.

Just two weeks after receiving Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour, Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat proved he was ready to compete in the toughest golf arena in the world. The 28-year-old equalled his best finish in a Major by finishing 15th after the final round at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Following in the footsteps of 48-year-old Thongchai Jaidee, Kiradech has continued to fly the flag for Thailand on the European Tour and is now trying to widen Thai presence on the most elite tour, the PGA Tour. Kiradech is the first Thai PGA Tour member, currently ranking at No.29, up from 147 last October, and looking set to continue climbing. We’ve delved into the background of this rising star. 

When did Kiradech start playing golf? 
He was introduced to golf by his father at eight years old. “I used to follow my dad to the range, and I thought, ‘this sport looks interesting’.”

Kiradech was previously known as Anujit Hirunratanakorn. What prompted the name change?
Kiradech Aphibarnrat decided to change his name when he was 16, believing it was good luck. In Thai culture, changing one's name is not only commonplace but is something a person may do several times in their life. It certainly seems to have paid off for Kiradech so far!

What was his first win as a professional?
Kiradech's first victory as a professional was in 2009 at the Mercedes-Benz Tour's Singha Pattaya Open which he followed by winning the 2011 Korean Open. He won by 11 strokes, earning US$50,000. His first Asian Tour win was at the 2011 SAIL Open.

If Kiradech wasn’t playing golf for a living, what would he be doing? 
“I’d probably be a racing car driver. I love the Fast and Furious movies – from the first to the last,” said Kiradech. The 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner aban-doned the pursuit earlier on in his life because it became “too dangerous”.

Why does he always wears green in the final round of tournaments?
As part of a superstition, Kiradech loves to wear green on the final day. “Tiger wears red, and I wear green. I feel like it gives me more power,” explained Kiradech. 

In addition to golf, Kiradech has other passions. What are they?
There are three items Kiradech cannot do without: shoes, watches, and cars. The Thai golfer has 15 pairs of Yeezys, the Adidas-made sneakers made popular by rap-per Kanye West. He admits that his earnings from 2016 went on buying all of his watches. "So I have a lot of work to do. That's why I play a lot around the world, that you guys see. I spend a lot of it on all that stuff," said Kiradech, who also owns a white Ferrari. Why white? "If I go anywhere, everybody knows there's only one in Thailand," he states proudly.

Does Kiradech have strong family ties? 
He’s very close to his family. “My family keeps me going. Golf at this level is not easy, with all the practice, and having to keep yourself mentally strong. So, my fami-ly is always beside me and they are very important to me,” explained Kiradech. 

Kiradech is sometimes referred to as Asia's John Daly. Why did this comparison arise?
Kiradech’s unathletic physique has prompted him to be compared to the two-time Major championship winner John Daly. Just like Daly, Kiradech has managed to carve out a variety of impressive achievements despite his atypical body type. Not surprisingly, Kiradech is considered the most exciting player to emerge from Thai-land.

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