Kuala Lumpur, May 19: The 24-year-old Kiradech, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, exchanged his golf gear with a robe and shaved his head and eyebrows as he spent seven days last week at the Wat Veerachoti Thamaram in the Chachoengsao province, which is some 80km from Bangkok.
During the time, the burly Thai woke up at 4.30am every morning, learned to meditate and pray with other monks, walked bare-footed for several kilometres to gather food, cleaned the temple grounds and ate one meal a day.
“In Thai culture, you have to do this once in your lifetime when you’re aged between 21 to 25. It is a mark of respect to our parents,” said Kiradech.
“This was a good experience for me. You have to learn to be patient and to be cool with yourself. I learned a lot of things and hope to be able to do more things in the future. I feel like I’ve grown older in the past week and in some strange way, I feel I am able to think and do things better.”
It is a tradition in Thailand for young Buddhist men or boys to learn and become a monk as a sign of respect to their parents. It is believed that this will lead their parents to heaven when they die.
Currently ranked 83rd in the world, Kiradech hopes to break into the top-60 by May 26 or June 9 to qualify for the year’s second Major, the U.S. Open.
While his time in a temple was done out of respect to his parents, Kiradech thinks that learning to become a monk may help him with his golfing ambitions as well following a topsy-turvy start to the 2014 season where he has recorded only one top-five and missed three cuts.
“From the beginning of the year until now, I felt like I haven’t been mentally strong and focussed. I want to learn to be more patient with myself and enjoy my golf and hopefully my time in the temple will help me appreciate what I do for a living,” said Kiradech, who holds two wins on the Asian Tour.
“In the temple grounds, I did a lot of meditation and prayer every day. Walking without shoes with the other monks for several kilometres to collect food was another experience. I had to work and clean the temple grounds every day,” he said.
Kiradech will fly off to Wentworth this week for the BMW PGA Championship followed by a trans-Atlantic flight to the U.S. for the Memorial Tournament which he received an invitation to compete from golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
“I’ve got two big events coming up and I want to play well to get myself into the U.S. Open,” said Kiradech, who finished tied 25th in last year’s US PGA Championship.
“I need to have two good results. But the way I’m playing now, my confidence is coming up. I’m hitting the ball solidly and I feel I have a chance to play well in my next two events. I want to fly the Asian Tour flag high in England and the U.S.”