11 October 2019

Rising Jazz from Thailand

Thailand never runs out of golf talent. Jazz Janewattananond is leading Thailand's young generation of golfers to continue the country's dominance on the Asian golf map. 

The name Jazz Janewattananond (Pronounced: Jane-what-a-NAN-ond) began to orbit the Asian Tour world after he won his first title at the Bangladesh Open in 2017. Then, he elevated his status further by winning the Singapore Open in January this year. Standing up to the challenge set by world class players including Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, and Davis Love III, he lifted his third Asian Tour trophy with a winning total of 18-under-par, 266. He followed that up with a performance that put him in the spotlight at the PGA Championship. Jazz reached tied second place after 54 holes and finished up the tournament T-14 at Long Island. Here are some interesting facts about the player dubbed “Smooth Jazz”. 

In 2010 he broke two records. What were they? 
Jazz became the youngest golfer to make the cut on the Asian Tour at the age of 14 years and 71 days. He did it at the Asian Tour International 2010 in his native country. He also turned pro in the same year, at the tender age of 15.

What other records has he broken?
Jazz set a new lowest winning score record with his 18-under-par 266 total at the 2019 Singapore Open. He broke the record of 17-under-par, 267, set by Adam Scott in 2010.

What are his most memorable moments so far?
Winning on the Asian Tour is certainly one of his biggest achievements to date. He claimed his first Asian Tour title at the Bangladesh Open in 2017. Along with that, his success at the SMBC Singapore Open 2019 moved him into the Top 100 in the OWGR and also earned him a spot at the British Open at Royal Portrush this past July. It was his second appearance at the oldest major tournament in the world. 

In 2016, he took a two-week break to join a monkhood at a temple in northern Thailand. What did he learn from the religious experience?
Jazz credits the experience as helping him to win his Asian Tour title at the Bangladesh Open in 2017. At the temple he shaved his head and prayed in silence for much of the day, learning how to relax his mind and body. “Before that, golf was everything to me, and it gave me so much pressure during competition,” he said after his retreat. “I have been competing with less pressure ever since and am starting to get better results.”

Jazz is a unique name for a Thai person, what’s the story behind it? 
Jazz is a nickname given to him during childhood due to his father’s love of jazz music. His real first name is Atiwit, but he switched to his nickname. “Apparently, that didn’t come through me. But, yeah, I like all kinds of music. Maybe the name helps,” said Jazz, as quoted by Philadelphia Enquirer. 

Who is his mentor?
Jazz considers fellow Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat his mentor. The two play practice rounds together when they're in the same tournament, including at the PGA Championship on Bethpage in May. What advice did Aphibarnrat impart? “Lots of things,” Jazz said, as quoted by “Eat a lot, play a lot of money games, and don’t take golf too seriously.”

He earned his spot at Bethpage Black for the US PGA Championship in May via special invitation from the PGA of America. His first visit to the major attracted the attention of golf fans. How did it turn out?
Jazz was able to stand up to the brutal test of Bethpage Black, shooting 70-68-67 in the first three rounds. He was in contention heading into the final round but unfortunately closed with 77 to finish tied-14th in his second major championship appearance. Despite the disappointing finish, he still stole the show. In addition to his slick performance, Jazz became the center of attention for plenty of reasons, especially because his family name is not easy to pronounce and barely fit on the leaderboards.

What did Jazz make of the spectators at Bethpage? 
 “My first time ever getting a crowd like this, shouting my name,” he said. “I don't know how to react to it. They give me some really funny names. They did try. It didn't come out right. It's great, coming out here, interacting with all the crowds. It's crazy. I love it. I just want to remember everything.”

What makes Carnoustie Golf Links so memorable for Jazz?
Carnoustie will always have a special place in Jazz’s heart. He first visited the Scottish course to watch The Open with his dad in 2007. Then, 11 years later, he came to the course to make his debut at the Open Championship. He took the opportunity to recreate a heartfelt moment with his father, in the same spot... and wearing almost identical clothing.

What is his favorite sport apart from golf?
Jazz used to be a swimmer when he was young but quit because he was too short. Today, he says he loves to watch American Football. His father is a big fan of the sport and Jazz watches it with him. He likes the sport because his father likes it.


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