A quick chat with the newly-sponsored Taiwanese pro
March 9, 2020 by Kingsley Flett in Interview, News with comments
Jacky Chen is already the feel-good story of 2020.
The unknown who swoops in out of nowhere to win it all. It’s the most romantic of all sports stories: like Jim Morris in the The Rookie. It’s Vince Papale, or the story that came out of Australia last year, Marlion Picket.
Then this year, right at the end of the four weeks where disc golf in Asia takes center stage, at the Asia Open in Taiwan, Jacky Chen finished a grueling 72 holes on the temporary Kaohsiung Metro Park course in Taiwan by holding steady in the nine-hole final to win by one throw from Nate Perkins and Philo Brathwaite. Reigning USDGC Champion James Conrad was two strokes further back and, sitting out to watch the top four play the final 9 was Japanese champion and past winner of this event, Manabu Kajiyama.
“I used to have a small dream of playing in a nine-hole final in a major event in Taiwan,” Chen said, still processing his win five days later. “Then today I looked at my phone and watched myself doing just that. It was this sense of waking up and seeing the dream was real.
“I never imagined that I’d be first, but I have always been very confident in myself,” Chen added. “I believe that, in defeating myself, I can defeat anyone. I don’t mean this to be arrogant. Of course, confidence is important, but for me the greatest joy is to get the respect of my opponent.”
The win, his first in only his second significant tournament, and his first as a PDGA-registered player, sent a ripple through disc golf media, both mainstream and social, around the world. Some even thought it was a hoax. It’s been the biggest story so far this year. But, as Terry Miller pointed out, this is no longer the “offseason.”
The Asian Swing should now be considered the first part of the season.
It is a win that will inevitably send a ripple through Chen’s life too. Most pundits suggesting that his time as a regional phenomenon won’t last long. As when Yao Ming came to the NBA, or Dong Fangzhuo to the English Premier League, the marketing power of an elite player connected to the potentially huge Asian market can’t be ignored. Surely the sponsors must be circling.
“I think when that last shot was taken, it was, in my life, the most important moment,” Chen said.
Sponsors were indeed quick to act, with Innova offering Chen a spot on the team, a deal he accepted.
Of the pressure of playing alongside some of the world’s best players he said, “It was the biggest competition and the most psychological stress that I’ve felt. But I enjoyed seeing hundreds of people cheering for me, it made me calmer.”
When I asked Chen about his plans for the future, his answer was simple and direct. “I hope to go to the US and play in some big tournaments. I hope to go this year. I just need some help from sponsors.”
With his new Innova support and a friend to crash with in the Peoria area, Chen has said he now plans on playing this year’s Ledgestone Insurance Open.