Aphibarnrat: 'Talent isn't made in one day'
April 28, 2015
By Kenneth Quillinan, Special to presidentscup.com
- April 28, 2015
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Shenzen International. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
It has been a tough two years for Kiradech Aphibarnrat since his maiden European Tour victory at the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open. Just a few months after the elation of winning came the tragic news of the death of his long time coach and friend, Natpasit Chokthanasart. The pair had such a close relationship that Kiradech often referred to him as his second dad. They had discussed how they would win majors together, and after his passing, Aphibarnrat struggled to cope emotionally.
Eighteen months on and the Bangkok native is finally back in the winner’s circle after a dramatic playoff win over Chinese teen sensation Hao Tong Li at the Shenzen International. This victory elevated the 25-year-old up the International Presidents Cup Team leaderboard into 16th position; but more importantly, it has restored confidence back into his game, and it is widely expected that he will continue to progress throughout the rest of 2015 and beyond. He shared his thoughts in a recent interview.
It was clear to see the relief on your face as you celebrated your Shenzen International victory. Do you feel that after losing your coach, this win was more important for you than the 2013 Malaysian Open?
Both wins are important to me, but I always wish my coach was still here to witness me doing well again in my career. I will always feel very thankful to him. He was more than a coach; he was also my mentor. I’m also thankful to my family, who has been supporting me no matter what. My mother was supporting me in China over the past fortnight and psychologically it meant so much to me.
What was it like teeing up against the local favorite Li in the playoff? He looks to be a great prospect.
Of course Li is a promising player. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. But by playoff time, I was confident after my eagle on 17, and I felt I was back to life after coming from a potential losing position. I had no fear going head to head with the local favorite.
How did you celebrate after the victory at the Shenzen International?
I’ve been spending time with my family after the win, and this week I am in Thailand meeting up with my friends and most importantly with my fiancé, who I will get married to soon. I will also buy myself another new watch soon as a personal reward for my win.
I think it is fair to say that every pro golfer’s caddie plays a big part mentally in the success of the player. How important is your caddie to you?
He’s very important to me. I tried a few guys, but no one can match this guy’s chemistry with me. He supports me through all of my emotions on the course. When I want to be aggressive, he also turns aggressive (emotionally). It is plain to see this in his body language, and this motivates me to play better.
Can you explain your name change from Anujit Hirunratanakorn? And how have you taken to your nickname ‘The Rat’?
It’s a belief in our Thai culture and especially in my family. We believed that it would bring me good luck, and it seems to be justified. About the nickname, I think it’s funny…How many nicknames have I got now?
You are also sometimes referred to as the ‘Asian John Daly.’ How do you feel about this comparison?
There is no doubt that he is a great player. People compare our swing style, and I have to agree that they’re quite similar.
What would it mean to you to play in The Presidents Cup and possibly pair up with Thongchai Jaidee?
It would be awesome just to get to be a team member. I have experience playing with TJ before, and we played very well together as a team. He’s a man of great character with strong leadership qualities. He would make a great Presidents Cup captain someday, and it would be all the better if it was in Thailand!
You have previous experience playing in a team competition on the big stage. What was it like to compete in the inaugural EurAsia Cup?
It was fantastic! I had a 1-1-1 record, and I felt great as long as we didn’t lose. We had a dramatic comeback on the last day. The whole experience was awesome, and I would love to compete in that tournament again.
With the recent win in China, what are your goals for the rest of 2015? Is making The Presidents Cup the main goal for you?
That’s part of it. I want to do well on the European Tour. This is my main priority for the year. My long-term goal is to secure a full time position on the PGA TOUR.
If you had to remove one club from your bag, which one would it be, and which one would you refuse to part with?
My 3-wood is removable as it is quite similar to my driver. I would never remove my pitching wedge from my bag.
Do you have any lucky charms in your bag or superstitions before a round?
Nothing specific, but I am a Buddhist. I follow and perform the rites occasionally, and I was also ordained once in early 2014.
Which current player on tour do you find the most entertaining?
For me, it’s only Tiger Woods. Like so many others, I grew up admiring him. He has done so much for the game.
What was the greatest shot you have hit in your career?
I suppose the recent putt to win in Shenzen is my greatest.
Are you involved in any charity work in Thailand?
Every year I play in a charity golf event at Amata Spring Country Club, which raises money for the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC). I also donate money to various temples, as part of my religious belief.
Do you have any messages for young golfers across the world on how to be successful in this field?
Work hard and dream high. Talent isn’t made in one day.