Simon Yates in bid to nail two Asian tours
He was delighted with a fourth-place finish in the Thailand Open last weekend and is ready to start playing more regularly again on both the Asian Tour and OneAsia circuit.
Glasgow-born Yates, who spent five years as an assistant professional to George Yuille at Royal Burgess on the outskirts of Edinburgh, has been based in Thailand since he fell in love with the country during a holiday there almost 20 years ago.
A two-time winner, the newly-turned 43-year-old is one of the top all-time career money-winners on the Asian Tour but has mainly had work tools rather than a golf club in his hands until his return to the competitive arena last week. “Over the past two years, I have basically been watching my son grow up, renovating my apartment and finishing my house in Phuket, which has all taken a lot of time and effort,” Yates told The Scotsman. “But I think it is time to start thinking about golf and making some money again.”
He picked up a cheque for just over £24,000 for his week’s work in Bangkok, where he carded four rounds in the 60s, including a third-round 64, to finish alongside defending champion Chris Wood and ahead of three-time major winner Padraig Harrington. “It was nice to come back from playing very little golf in the past couple of years and have a good finish,” added Yates, who shot a 66 at St Andrews to share the lead after the opening round of the Dunhill Links Championship ten years ago before ending up a respectable 12th behind Lee Westwood.
“I certainly need to work on the fitness side of things as I really felt tired after every round. If I do that, it might help later on this year when I start to play more tournaments.”
Until a few months ago, the player known by his peers as “The Wee Man” had been faced with deciding to compete on either the Asian Tour or the OneAsia circuit but a so-called “golf war” in the region was resolved in court last November.
Four players, including Australian duo Terry Pilkadaris and Matthew Griffin, won a year-long restraint of trade case against the Asian Tour, having launched the action after they were fined and barred from the circuit over playing in OneAsia events in 2010.
“While I wasn’t involved in the court case, I got lucky when the four boys won their appeal as it meant that I now have the right to play on both Tours,” said Yates, who represented Scotland as a downhill skier before turning to golf. “I still have a card on the Asian Tour due to being 13th on the all-time career earnings, so I will play a bit of golf on both Tours this year.”
A German PGA champion in 1994, Yates made the breakthrough on the Asian Tour when winning the Sabah Masters in Malaysia in 1998. He added the SK Telecom Open in Korea six years later and has also finished runner-up on the circuit 13 times. While he had Kenny Walker, the former Scottish Stroke-Play champion, for company in the early days of the Asian Tour and, more recently, Ross Bain and James Byrne, Yates is surprised that more of his compatriots haven’t turned to the circuit as they bid to scale the golfing ladder.
“James is one of the few who try to start his career here,” noted Yates, who has twice finished third on the Order of Merit and claimed his biggest cheque – for just over £80,000 – for third place in the 2007 BMW Asian Open. “It does surprise me that more Scottish pros don’t come out and give it a go. It is a great learning ground and they would gain a lot of experience.
“I suppose Europe is closer to home and, if they got their European Tour cards, then that makes more sense. And, of course, the weather conditions in Europe are also a bit more like Scottish weather.”