China’s youngest professional golfer Xi Yu Lin is ideally placed to walk through the doors that Shanshan Feng has opened for women’s golf in China. The talented 17-year-old, who is a rookie on the Ladies European Tour and a two-year member of the China LPGA, has the experience of a veteran, boasting an impressive résumé that includes a 2011 U.S. Women’s Open appearance as an amateur, two wins on the CLPGA in 2012 and a tie for 17th finish at this year’s RICOH Women’s British Open at St. Andrews.
Her good friend Shanshan Feng, who was the first player from mainland China to win a major at the 2012 LPGA Championship – and also captured wins last year in the LET’s Mission Hills World Ladies Championship and Omega Dubai Ladies Masters – won the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing earlier this month, ensuring the kind of Chinese national TV attention never seen before in women’s golf.
Lin, who grew up as a neighbour of Feng’s in Guangzhou, hopes that she can make a similar impact at the Sanya Ladies Open starting Friday this week, which is tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European, China LPGA and Ladies Asian Golf Tours.
Xi Yu Lin during a practice round at the Sanya
Ladies Open on Thursday
This is the fourth year at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya and Lin has not finished outside the top ten in her three appearances at the event. She tied for ninth at the inaugural tournament in 2010 aged 14 and then tied for 5th in 2011 on her professional debut aged 15 before improving further to equal fourth place in 2012. She is now looking for her first podium finish.
I really feel a little bit of pressure because this course. I always play pretty good and the last couple of tournaments I did pretty well. I’m just trying to relax more and I hope I can play even better than last year.
Xi Lu Lin
Despite mixed results on the LET this year, with a season-best tie for 8thfrom nine starts, Lin feels that she has learned from traveling the world. Some of her greatest lessons have come from Feng, who dispenses advice freely and Lin is particularly impressed with her mental strength.
“At the LPGA Reignwood Classic I asked her, ‘With so many people watching you, maybe they will be very noisy, what are you going to do?’ She told me, ‘Don’t watch them and they disappear just like trees. Don’t worry about that.’ She really helped me and made me more confident.”
Lin, who is seven years younger than Feng, picked up the game of golf after Feng’s father recruited her to play when she was eight years old, but the World no.7 feels that Lin is better than her at 17 years of age. When Feng was 17, she was competing as an amateur in China when offered a full scholarship by Gary Gilchrist to the International Junior Golf Academy in the United States. She turned professional at the end of 2007 after earning her LPGA Tour card aged 18. Lin turned professional at 15 and at 17 already has two years as a professional including a full season of travelling the world with the LET behind her.
Her improvement over the last three years suggests that she can make further progress over the next three, ultimately building on Feng’s success to become part of the next generation of world class players.
Continued strong results by exciting talents such as Lin and Feng, combined with golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and women’s golf may soon be viewed by Chinese people on the same level as other popular sports such as diving and tennis.