“I’m not a true Scotsman any more, am I?” joked the Asian Tour professional who has lived more of his 47 years based in Thailand than in his native land.
He has ventured to Queenstown for the first time for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, lured by the new co-sanction agreement with his Asian Tour, and like many, has fallen in love with the golf and the place.
Yates has been in good form this week, a 65 at The Hills followed up by rounds of 68 and 66 at the Millbrook Resort to start the final day in T12 at 15 under for the tournament, nine shots behind leader Terry Pilkadaris.
After an early stint in Germany where he won the German Open, Yates ventured to Thailand on holiday and loved what he saw. The following year he set up home there and has never left. He is one of the long-serving players on a burgeoning Asian Tour, having had two of his six professional wins there, as well as in China.
Yates has watched with interest as the game in Asia and on the Asian Tour has grown.
“There are a lot of good Asians now and a lot coming through. Asian golf is in good shape. We just need the Asian Tour to get a few more tournaments in the main tour, and it will just get better and better.”
While he loves golf, it is not the be-all and end-all, as testament with his incident 13 years ago when he was in a playoff in Malaysia for the final spot to qualify for the British Open, a dream he had never achieved. After several weather delays, Yates had an 8m putt on the first extra hole in a four-way sudden death to claim the spot. However officials called a further weather stoppage before he could putt.
Yates, a former downhill skier, had booked a ski holiday to Europe that evening.
“I couldn’t miss the flight. So I left and raced to the airport. They called me as I was about to board to say they were waiting at the green. And I told them I was flying out. That was my last time I’ve attempted to qualify for the Open.”
Yates later finished runner-up ahead of Ernie Els at the Korean Open when the South African spoke to him at the presentation.
“He said ‘What were you thinking? You were in seven newspapers back home saying ‘Yates decides to go skiing instead of playing in the Open.’”
“I told him that golf isn’t everything. The Open was in Scotland that year too, at Royal Troon.”
Yates begins his final round at Millbrook at 11.45am this morning, with Pilkadaris joining second-placed Callan O’Reilly (-19) in the last group away at 12.40pm.