'They love me here': Jazz makes a name for himself among Bethpage fans

Jazz Janewattananond John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

'They love me here': Jazz makes a name for himself among Bethpage fans

PGA Championship

'They love me here': Jazz makes a name for himself among Bethpage fans

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – First things first.

Atiwit “Jazz” Janewattananond’s last name is pronounced “JANNA-watta-NON-nond.” For brevity’s sake here, all references henceforth to the young man who is making a name for himself at the PGA Championship will be Jazz.

That’s how it works for him anyway. Five years ago, the 23-year-old from Thailand decided to go with Jazz when he was asked for an autograph. And that’s what he’s been signing this week at Bethpage Black.

“I used to sign Jazz Janewattananond, but I said I can’t do that anymore,” he said with a laugh after he shot 3-under-par 67 in Saturday’s third round of the second major of the year to move onto the first page of the leaderboard. He’ll start Sunday’s final round seven shots behind Brooks Koepka, but Jazz isn’t concerned about the deficit. He’s just having the time of his life.

“Greatest fun of my life,” he said of his first three rounds. “People keep shouting, ‘Love you.’ They love me here.”

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Playing in his first major championship, Jazz has been a hit with the New York fans and turned the heads of some of his competitors. His story is one to behold, as is his golf swing and outgoing personality. So, here’s Cliff Notes version of who Jazz is.

Fear of Bethpage

The rising star in Thailand turned pro in 2010 when he was 14, primarily because there weren’t enough amateur tournaments to play in. That year, he became the youngest player to make the cut on the Asian Tour.

His father nicknamed him Jazz because, well, his father loves jazz music.

He’s won three tournaments on the Asian Tour.

He’s ranked No. 72 in the world.

He said Kiradech Aphibarnrat is like his big brother, and the two played practice rounds together this week.

He was afraid of Bethpage Black, saying when he got here and saw the course it gave him a nightmare. He wondered if he could break 80.

He’s using a local caddie, Jack Miller, whom many consider the No. 1 looper on the Black Course.

Jazz Janewattananond and his caddie Jack Miller on the 14th hole during the third round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Photo: John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

“He’s been great,” Jazz said. “Sometimes it’s hard to understand the New York accent, though.”

Earlier this week, he met Tiger Woods for the first time.

“I lost words meeting him,” Jazz said.

Finding peace

And when he was 21, he lived as a monk for two weeks. He credits his time in the temple for helping him win his first Asian Tour event at the 2017 Bangladesh Open.

“Every Buddhist, if you’re that religion, you have to go to it when you’re 21, when you turn 21, and I did that,” Jazz said. “I didn’t expect it to be better for myself, but it turns out it made me more peaceful, (made me) not try as hard on the golf course because there’s so many other big things around our lives.”

Oh, and the 5-9 Jazz, who weighs about 150 pounds, loves America. Especially the food. Particularly, the fast food, as he ripped off Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out among his favorite joints.

“If I lived here I’d gain a lot of weight,” he laughed.

Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand walks to the 18th green during the second round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 18, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

He laughs a lot, smiles even more. His first three trips around Bethpage Black have done wonders for his confidence as he said this week will make him a better golfer.

Well, he might be good enough to make the Presidents Cup team. He has spoken and played with Internationals captain Ernie Els, who told Jazz to just keep playing well.

And Jazz could play in next year’s Masters. The top four and ties this week – Jazz is tied for second with 18 to play – earn an invitation to the 2020 Masters.

But Jazz isn’t getting ahead of himself. Instead, he’s looking forward to another round at Bethpage Black, the course that gave him a nightmare. He also can’t wait for some of the fans to butcher the pronunciation of his last name.

“I heard some really funny ones,” Jazz said. “Keep it coming.”

Or just call him Jazz.

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