It was 1am (PST) on a Friday night in mid-December. The Thai Golf Championship in full swing, the heart of Silly Season highlighted by vistas of Thai rain forest, Sergio’s sassy caddy, Bubba whining about noises in a non-existent gallery (note: speculation), and Big Swede Stenson on auto-pilot escaping another Nordic winter. While Sergio waggled away a field en route to victory, I serendipitously stumbled upon what’s become my 2014 international YOTTO (if unfamiliar – YOTTO-What it is?) candidate:
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (pronounced Kear-A-Deck App-E-Ban-Raut).
Where did this seven syllable name climbing the leaderboard come from? After the husky 24 year old made back-to-back birdies, I decided to find out and began with the name.
Before turning pro at 21, Anujit Hirunratanakorn (a devout Buddhist) changed his given Thai name to Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thai meaning: unknown). A mouthful either way, thankfully he goes by two nicknames (that NLU knows of):
Arm (his everyday rig), and
‘The Big Unit‘ (for those special occasions).
Take one look at Arm and ‘Gut’ may sound more appropriate, but there’s no questioning the perfection of ‘The Big Unit.’ Listed at 5’9″ 229 (yea, in his bra), he very well could embody what the Buddha’s golf swing would look like: a long, loose move reminiscent of NLU hall-of-famer John Daly. And based on Carl Spackler’s spot on analysis of the Dalai Lama’s Game below (remember the Lama is the Buddha reincarnate), the comparison seems fair. Anchored by this tremendous gut, Arm proves Sir Isaac right; mass is neither gained nor lost but transferred into 300+ off the tee.
Aphibarnrat’s lack of PGA Tour experience may prevent us from using the traditional index to evaluate his YOTTO potential in the short term, but looking back over his 2013 season shows Arm may be poised to break out. He gutted out a one-stroke win at the European tour stop in Kuala Lumpur showing no fear of legit competition, and he also won twice on the Asian tour. Pairing a 299.98 average driving distance with tasty wedge work reinforces the comparison to JD (and possibly The Lama) almost as much as the heater hanging from his lips!
Despite the small sample size, NLU remains bullish on ‘The Big Unit’s’ YOTTO potential (see Fil’s YOTTO update). After the Malaysian Open win in the spring, The Big Unit made the jump across the Pacific, making the cut at both Firestone and The PGA Championship (where he finished tied for 25th). He jumped into the top 100 world golf ranking, continued to bank top 10’s on the Asian tour to finish 59th in the OWGR with over $1.9 million in career prize money, and one of the year’s best quotes:
‘I don’t work out a lot. I just try to play good golf. You don’t have to have good body for that’ – not too shabby for a kid from rural Northern Thailand.
Yes the Thai Golf Championship was in the heart of Silly season. This is to say the competition and the stakes could have been higher, but Arm’s showing in Mid-December sparked my curiosity. His tempo, length, and demeanor remind me of another Husky European star: Lee Westwood (version 1.0). He’s also a two-time world junior champion, so he’s been no stranger to the podium from an early age, a habit common among champions. But, it’s the interview below that cements Arm’s YOTTO candidacy:
The Big Unit has it all – endearing Broken English (that includes adding an ‘s’ to the end of all singular nouns), Bono tint on the shades, a Titleist sponsorship, and most importantly, he’s totally un-phased by the Golf World smoke-show hosting the interview (her accent alone would have me launching Hozzle Rockets).
In the end, it’s Aphibarnrat himself who sums up why I like him so much — When asked about the strongest part of his game, he replies, ‘I got good driver and a lot confident right now.’
Kiradech, No Laying Up salutes you.