Golf’s history-making schoolboy: The hectic double-life of 15-year-old Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat

However Ratchanon is just not like most youngsters his age — he is already a history-making novice golfer competing in opposition to a number of the sport’s finest professionals.
In April — 5 weeks on from his 15th birthday — he made worldwide headlines when he grew to become the youngest male participant to win on a serious Tour, claiming the $750,000 Belief Golf Asian Combined Cup in his native Thailand.

This month, he’s finding out for vital biology and economics exams, a stress he is needed to juggle with representing his nation on the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Video games, in Vietnam.

It is a balancing act of daunting proportions, however an unfazed Ratchanon has a degree to show.

“It will get a bit bit laborious generally, however I benefit from the problem,” he advised CNN. “I like to do effectively in each and show all of the doubters fallacious.

“Apparently in the event you’re an athlete, you may’t do good at school. I am attempting to vary that.”

Victory on the Asian Tour marked a brand new high-point within the fledgling profession of one of many sport’s brightest younger stars. Ratchanon has loved a sensational rise since — aged simply 13 years and 4 months — he grew to become the youngest participant to make the reduce within the historical past of the All Thailand Golf Tour, in August 2020.

And extremely, he got here agonizingly near successful an Asian Tour occasion even sooner, ending third in his first worldwide professional occasion on the Singapore Worldwide in January.

Origin story

Ratchanon’s golfing origin story reads like a comic book guide. Having begun taking part in with plastic golf equipment and balls on the age of three, TK — a nickname twinning his dad or mum’s initials — completed final in his first match at 4 years previous.

“I noticed the child who received the trophy and I received actually, actually jealous,” Ratchanon recollects. “I did not know why I did not get one, so I used to be actually upset. Then my dad needed to clarify to me how he gained, so he received the trophy.”

And so following a month of intense coaching beneath the tutelage of a equally aggressive, golf-loving father, he received his palms on the trophy on the subsequent try.

At his first Junior World occasion a yr later, motivational messages have been inscribed on chairs at every tee. “Winners by no means stop and quitters by no means win,” learn one, a motto that exemplifies Ratchanon’s mentality and work ethic.

His father acts as his caddie in addition to a 3rd coach, placing in further hours together with his son to construct upon classes from two different coaches. On days with out faculty, an already intensive apply regime ramps up one other degree, the teen spending anyplace between seven and 9 hours on the course honing his craft.

Warned in opposition to exhaustion, Ratchanon has began to take off the occasional half day — spending the time on tutoring, physiotherapy or health — however shrugs off any suggestion of burnout.

“I do not see it taking place. I like golf. I like training,” Ratchanon stated.

“Sure, it is laborious — it hurts and it takes numerous self-discipline, however even simply two months of tremendous laborious work simply to get that one good shot or only a good end result, I believe it pays off for me.”

Function mannequin

And who higher to supervise Ratchanon’s ascent than compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, an Asian Tour legend with 20 skilled wins to his identify. The 52-year-old icon has helped the teen with varied points of his sport since their first assembly in 2019.

When Ratchanon needed to study his hero’s spinning chip, the pair spent the following three weeks training the approach for six hours a day.

“He is been serving to me a lot with my sport. He is a fantastic man,” Ratchanon stated. “I believe he simply enjoys serving to creating Thai golfers for the way forward for Thai golf.”

Jaidee during the Chubb Classic at Florida's Tiburon Golf Club in February.

Thongchai has additionally helped mildew the psychological facet of the teenager’s sport, serving to him implement a routine to beat dips in efficiency beneath stress. Now, Ratchanon has a way to make use of in massive moments: decelerate, take a sip of water, and swing “with out hesitation.”

Requested in regards to the stress of the “teen prodigy” tag and rubbing shoulders with the game’s elite, the 15-year-old merely replies, “I get pleasure from it.”

“I am not feeling pressured … I am not fearful of taking part in with good individuals,” he stated.

“Nobody’s actually pushed it on me and I am very lucky that I’ve numerous good individuals round me who will assist assist me and maintain me in line.”

Keep at school

It is an perspective serving to Ratchanon to take issues one step at a time. Eager to not rush the leap to the skilled sport, he’s laser-focused on ending faculty with a flourish.

Ratchanon is already dreaming of finding out physics at a school within the US, sustaining his golf balancing act on the facet. He’s eager to comply with the examples set by Colin Morikawa and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, who graduated from the College of California, Berkeley, and UCLA respectively earlier than tasting main glory.

“I’ve seen numerous Thai gamers flip professional early, however now I believe lots of people know that going to school is price their whereas,” he stated.

“If we flip professional, that is our life. We won’t actually flip again.”

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