Rising Thai star Jazz Janewattanond talks through his remarkable journey from training as a monk to breaking into the top 60 in the world in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
If you’re a Buddhist and you live in Thailand when you turn 21 you have to train as a Monk – it’s a cultural thing. Soon after my 21 birthday our King had just passed away and I wanted to do it for him and for my parents. Timing-wise it worked out well as I had just lost my card on the Asian Tour, so I had some free time and I looked at it as it could be something that could improve me as a person, not just a golfer. You learn how to be with yourself, how to breathe, which is so important as nowadays everyone is so stuck on social media. When you’re a Monk you can’t use your phone, or social media, and we go through a training method where you can’t talk for 24 hours, can’t eat anything. You are just alone for that whole time. That has helped me with my golf as no matter which week it is, against whichever field, I know I’m out there on my own competing and I am comfortable in that situation.
That training has given me clarity. Sometimes in golf you just rush into things without thinking clearly. You just have to be present. Rather than thinking ‘I’ve just hit a bad shot, how’s that going to impact the future’ you have to simplify it and move on to the next thing. It’s really hard to do that though, and it only works sometimes! The day after I finished my training I played really badly at Q-School. Two weeks after that I made the cut and finished last at a smaller event, but then I entered an Asian Tour tournament – which was a bigger event and a pretty big deal for me at the time. When I won it wasn’t even a month after I’d done my training, so it really was an ‘oh my goodness’ moment. I was so surprised and shocked and was happy to say that the training helped me achieve that.
I used to be someone who fiddled with things a lot, until I started working with Pete Cowen – he has given me a lot more direction. We first met at the Scottish Open last year. He had been working with Kiradech, who is like my big brother, so he had told Pete about me, and as I was tenth reserve for that event I decided to go out and follow Kiradech and Thongchai. TJ is a legend – one of the guys I really look up to, so I try to watch him play as much as I can.
When I got back from watching them I saw Kiradech was hitting balls with Pete, so I went up to him and said ‘hi I’m Jazz and I’d like to work with you.’ Pete replied ‘yeah I know who you are’ and although I didn’t get an answer on my offer that week, I was playing in The Open the next week and I stayed on the range hitting balls for ages, waiting to get the chance to go over and see him. Brooks Koepka, Danny Willett, Branden Grace and Padraig Harrington all went to see him, though, so I kept hitting balls for hours until he was free. I went up to him and asked to have some time, but he had to go and see someone else! He invited me back the next morning though, so I got there at 7am and he was there with Brooks again. I was like ‘oh man it’s going to be the same story.’ I had to wait until 5pm but we worked together for an hour and he gave me some tips – after that I saw him throughout the week. It’s all good now and I fly to Sheffield often to go and see him. He’s a very busy man and a hard guy to find – any minute with him is worth so much.
Growing up in Thailand I’d never played a Links Course before The Open last year. To get to play these great courses is really special and is something that hasn’t been easy either. It’s a learning curve and I’m going to have to improve a lot if I want to get to that next level – that’s why it’s so important to test myself against the world’s best during weeks like this. I showed I could do it at the US PGA Championship. I had a great week and managed to compete with some of the best players in the world in my first American major – showing myself that I can do it – but I really believe that I need to improve still if I’m going to get to that elite level, which is something I’m working towards each day.
I turned pro when I was 14 – so I’ve been around for a while. A lot of the guys I used to play with are now on the Over-50s Tour – like Thaworn Wiratchant – and in that time the Asian Tour, in particular, has changed a lot and keeps getting better. A lot of people in Asia give a lot more attention to golf too. I’ve made huge strides in my game over that period, and I feel like I am getting better every day. I don’t feel like a young guy on Tour though even though I’m only 23 – I look now at guys who are 19 or 20 and that feels like a lifetime ago to me.
Kiradech and I are very close. I was even there for his first win in India – which he doesn’t believe! I was only 16 but I ran on to congratulate him and covered him in water. He’s someone I’ve grown up with and he’s also someone who I look up to as well. We eat a lot when we’re together. As many people know he likes his food – I do too – so whenever we travel together, we have a great time. We practice a lot together and he’s also the person who introduced me to Pete, so he I owe him a lot for that.
Sometimes it can be funny when people try and say my name. I’m used to people getting it wrong as it is hard to pronounce, but it can be very funny when you’re on the tee and I can hear the announcer go up to my caddie and say ‘how do you pronounce that?’ It’s all good though, and most of the time I just turn around and say ‘thanks, you did a great job there.’ In Thailand we have a nickname as well as a birth name and surname – mine is Jazz because my Dad loved the music. Personally, I’m more into music from the 90s – I love Britpop!