Former Flames golfer Jonathan Yaun reflects on the journey of his debut season on the PGA Tour Canada
A professional golfer is no stranger to the feeling of pressure — pressure to make the cut, sink the putt and be the one hoisting the trophy on the green.
To that, PGA Tour Canada member and former Liberty golfer Jonathan Yaun steps back and says, “Take it one shot at a time.”
The concept sounds simple, but it’s one that has brought many things to light for Yaun in his first season on the PGA Tour Canada. For the 23 year old who wrapped up collegiate golf this past May, the initial expectations for his professional career were lofty. He knew the destination he wanted to reach, but was unsure of how long the climb would take.
“I really thought it’d be a little easier to really gain my status into Korn Ferry, the next level,” Yaun said. “I feel like it’s easy to do that (in) pro golf, where you know where you want to get to, but you got to just stay in the moment.”
He found in doing just that — staying in the moment — you’d be surprised at the encounters you have along the way.
After spending the past five years living the life of a college golfer, Yaun’s excitement to be on tour was paired with the knowledge that things were never going to be the same.
“I always was told that in your rookie season, you learn a lot,” Yaun said. “I feel like you’re always learning in golf, but it was a big learning curve.”
The initial shift came in the mere week-to-week process of playing golf. After being a student-athlete for so long, occupied with the never-ending balance of school, golf and other tasks, Yaun was surprised at what it felt like to have your day job simply be golf. It raised some questions for the Florida native.
“Monday to Wednesday, how do you prepare and how do you save your time and be productive with it? In college, you have that,” Yaun said. “In pro golf, there was just more free time. How do I not burn myself out and practice for seven hours, eight hours on the days where it’s not a tournament round?”
For him, he found that putting too much focus on his game made him negligent of the opportunities he had surrounding him. The connections he built with other PGA Tour Canada golfers through Bible studies and tournaments were something he wanted to not just maintain, but also appreciate.
“It was like golf was almost taking me away from the people that were in front of me that I truly needed to stay connected with,” Yaun said. “It was easy to get stuck in your own bubble and see (golf) as a business trip instead of also applying the faith-based truths that I had instilled at Liberty.”
Yaun desired to cherish the moment around him. It wasn’t until his encounter with a new friend in Windsor, Ontario, however, that the principle truly set in.
Yaun was even par heading into the second round of the Windsor Championship in early August, eager to make the cut for the final day. So, what did he do? Four hours before tee time, he was on the course practicing.
As he walked off the range, fatigued from hours of practice, Yaun got tripped up by a mat on the ground. Pausing for a moment to fix the mat, he caught the attention of a bystander — PGA Tour Canada Hall-of-Famer Bob Panasik.
“Hey, you got a really good swing,” Panasik told Yaun. “But it looks like you have no clue what you’re doing … In 20 minutes, I could fix your game.”
Yaun, while slightly caught off guard, welcomed him onto the course. Panasik began by teaching him the art of giving every shot the attention it deserves. He preached that rather than going to grab another golf ball before his first shot hits the ground, he needs to get the full value of the golf shot — not moving until it lands on the range.
That was just one of the many lessons Yaun learned that day.
“It just was on and on with different types of little things that you would think really don’t matter,” Yaun said of the experience. “And then he talks about how when you’re behind the golf ball, you want to tell the ball where it’s going to go.”
While apprehensive at first, he committed himself to taking Panasik’s advice.
“On the 17th hole, I’m in the middle of the tournament. I said, ‘Ball, you’re going to hit the green and go in the cup. I went through the process (Panasik) talked about,” Yaun said.
The ball didn’t simply hit the green — it flew into the hole from 84 yards out. As fans roared, Yaun had a moment of realization.
“I think I learned something there,” Yaun said. “It’s not necessarily your swing, it’s more where your mind is at and what you believe inside.”
The next day, Panasik confronted Yaun again, asking him what he needed to do to make the cut. Yaun told him, “I’m going to have to shoot eight-under-par.”
Panasik shook his head, telling Yaun that was the worst response he could have given.
“He preached, you got to stay in this moment,” Yaun said. “Not in the moment, but this moment. He told me, ‘This moment is right now. The moment could be a year from now, but this moment is right now. We’re going to stay focused right now.’”
While Panasik may have been referring to “the moment” as a moment in golf, Yaun saw the advice as more than a game-related principle.
“It has so much to apply to our lives as Christians, too, because I feel like for me as a Christian, I’m always like, Lord, use me. I want to be prepared for what you have for me today,” Yaun said. “But when I’m in that moment during that day where God has something for me, I shy away from the opportunity to be able to work through me. God will use you in a powerful way, but you just got to be submissive and just actually go act upon it … I did that with golf in a way I’ve never thought I would do before.”
Now, with a season of professional golf under his belt, Yaun sees both golf and life in a way he never thought he would.
His memories from the summer have been fulfilling and valuable — from his dad and uncle caddying for him in Ottawa, to meeting some of his closest friends in Edmonton and having unexpected encounters like the one with Panasik. He doesn’t know what the future holds, but Yaun is content with that — it’s all about the present.
“I’ve been praying about it and asking God just to show me what he has for me right now. I’m in a place where I’m just letting God speak to me and seeing what that looks like,” Yaun said.
Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on X