Thailand’s emerging golf star Gunn Charoenkul says his appearance in this summer’s Olympics will, surprisingly, mark the first time he has represented his country and that he plans to “aim high” and finish on the podium with a medal.
“During the early part of my career, when I was 16 or 17 years old, I never got a chance to get into the national team. So, this is the first time,” he said this week, after finishing in 52nd place on the Final Olympic Ranking ‒ which see the top 60 qualify for Tokyo 2020.
The 29 year old, who plays on both the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization, admitted that he could barely look at the Ranking at tournaments each week as he tried to maintain his focus and keep his position in the top 60.
“I felt the pressure, and I think that’s partly why I did not perform well in the past eight events. I tried not to think about it too much, tried not to think about my World Golf Ranking which determines your Olympic position,” he added.
“My goal is one of the medals, they are the only prize. You have to aim high, even though the top players are going to be there.”
Gunn will be joined at the XXXII Olympiad by compatriot Jazz Janewattananond and he will be one of seven Asian Tour players competing. At the Rio Olympics in 2016 ‒ when golf returned to the quadrennial event after an absence of 112 years ‒ Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat represented Thailand, with the latter impressively finishing joint fifth.
Appropriately, Gunn has been in Japan since March competing on the JGTO: he is currently 37th on Money List, and has only missed one cut in 11 starts in the 2020/2021 season, with a best finish equal eighth in the Dunlop Phoenix. He lines up in this week’s Dunlop SRIXON Fukushima Open.
“I never thought I would be home sick, but I am,” said Gunn, who plans to play the second half of the year on the JGTO after the Olympics ‒ which means he faces the prospect of not getting back to Thailand until December.
“I haven’t seen my family for four months. I could understand why Prom [Meesawat] did not come. He said he did not want to be away from his family that long. But these are exceptional times and the opportunity to play in the Olympics and more events in Japan helps outweigh the negatives.”
Despite what appear to be good performances this season, Gunn ‒ whose textbook golf swing is perfectly complemented by a calm demeanour ‒ has been disappointed with his form, which he says is partly because he is carrying an injury to his left thumb ‒ the unfortunate consequence of trying to hit the ball like American Bryson DeChambeau.
“I was trying to do some Bryson stuff last October. I was just trying to swing harder but the problem is my swing is really steep and the harder I swing the more I pull the head of the club, so it gets even steeper and puts a lot of strain on my thumb. I even had a shot of cortisone before my flight here in March,” he said.
“I am just going at things 70% right now. Anything longer than a six iron I cannot swing that hard. I don’t really know any therapist here. I know one but he is more like an acupuncture doctor. I went to see him over the last two weeks, and I did a couple of treatments but basically he said the best thing to do is rest.”
He has two more JGTO events before he can prepare for Tokyo 2020. A golf club have offered him their facilities to practice and play for a few weeks, after which he heads into the Olympic bubble.
Said Gunn: “I am really looking forward to being part of the Olympic village, soaking up the atmosphere and seeing other athletes, although it may be difficult with the restrictions ‒ I just heard the news that you cannot go and watch other sports. And I want to see the work ethic and routines of other athletes.”
He says he has not played Kasumigaseki Country Club, host venue for the Olympic golf event, before as they have not held events, but he has been doing some homework about the course by reading their website.
Added Gunn: “I feel ok now about things, but I think when I get to the village it will hit me. It will be amazing.”