Yapp repeatedly tried to convince his mother of his desire to leave school permanently.
“She said no. It took some time for her to really, fully trust me. We sat down one day and we talked about it … I said I really wanted to do it. I felt like I could,” he recalled.
“I told her that I wouldn’t go astray. I promised that I would train the whole day. I guess she really felt it also – that’s when she decided, okay, give him a shot.”
So Yapp’s life took a different path.
“The moment I dropped out, I was so committed to the game … Everything was just pool. I never thought about anything else,” he said.
“My coach (Pang) was … not happy about my choice, but he supported me all the way. I guess he also felt that I was crazy about the game.”
Yapp spent hours at home training, watching YouTube videos of past matches and then trained at the Chinese Swimming Club later in the day.
But there were those who doubted Yapp and his decision.
“They would tell me: ‘You’re so young, that’s really naive, you shouldn’t do it.’ But I was so fixed on doing it that there was no other option. I would look at them and I would tell them that I could do it.
“I really didn’t care.”
Yapp went on to complete his O-Levels at private institution Coleman College.
DEALING WITH PRESSURE
The year after he dropped out of school, Yapp competed in his first regional and world level tournaments. He was 15.
“I was excited to get to play and watch all those (players) that I used to watch on TV … I was starstruck and I was playing at the same table as them. Just a crazy feeling.”
Yapp continued to learn from Pang and picked up more tricks and tips from those he played against at the Chinese Swimming Club.
A few years later in 2014, the 18-year-old took home the Asian Junior title and then became the junior world champion when he won the nine-ball pool singles category at the Under-19 World Junior Championships in Shanghai.
In doing so, Yapp became the first Singaporean to win a world title in the sport.
“I was happy that I was able to win everything as a junior but it was time to move on (to the senior level).”
But things weren’t always smooth sailing after.
There was the disappointment of the 2015 SEA Games, where he was eliminated in the nine-ball pool singles quarter-finals on home soil.
“There was a lot of pressure, a lot of struggles … It was painful but it made me even stronger. I learnt to deal with the pressure and struggles.”
There was 2016, a barren year where he was eliminated early at most of the tournaments he competed in.
“After the SEA Games where I lost, I worked on a lot of things and just somehow everything clicked,” recalled Yapp.
“In 2016, I kept thinking that I could do it, but at that time, looking back, I wasn’t good enough. I had a couple of good runs, but I wasn’t consistent. So in 2016, I suffered a lot mentally because I kept losing and I started to become scared of the ball, scared of the game.”
After consulting his coach, Yapp made changes to the way that he practised, and turned a corner. He went on to win the men's nine-ball doubles gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
After serving his two years of National Service, Yapp had to take an extended break from February 2020 to June this year from competing abroad due to the pandemic. However, he said that it has proved to be a blessing in disguise.
"I felt it was even better because I had time to reflect and work on certain parts of the game, like (the) mental part," he said.
"I worked on my fundamentals. I had so much time to work on things that I was struggling at. When I was competing, I couldn't overhaul my whole game."
AN UPWARD TRAJECTORY
And 2021 has been a groundbreaking year for Yapp.
In September, he finished third at the World 10-Ball Championship in Las Vegas, and then took second at the US Open 9-Ball Championship in Atlantic City later that month.
Continuing his streak, Yapp won the Michigan 10-Ball Open for his first senior international title. His last senior level title was the 2017 Golden Break 9 Ball Open Championship in Malaysia.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised that I did so well. Recently I have been playing better … I was more focused on playing how I have been practising, doing what I have been working on … I guess it was my hard work that sort of paid off."